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Friday, May 18, 2018

Unwanted Gift

I'd like to stop talking about the recent Batman story "The Gift", really I would. I'd like to file the three issues away in my longboxes and forget it was ever published. But it seems Tom King doesn't want to let me do that.

Yes! This is the beginning of HUGE Booster story that puts him at the center of the DCU. More announcements coming..., @TomKingTK 2018-05-16

Please, no.

#BEGIN RANT (Warning: rant may contain spoilers)

I'm not intimately familiar with King's entire body of work, but I find it unlikely he's grown as popular as he is if all of his stories are as carelessly crafted as "The Gift."

The premise is laughably bad, an idea that should have been left on the back of whatever cocktail napkin King first jotted it on. How, exactly, is changing time to prevent the wedding of Batman and Catwoman supposed to be a gift? What kind of person would choose a vague dream over the lives of two loving parents? What kind of person would expect someone else to? Booster Gold was a former member of the Justice League, not a super villain. The excuse of immaturity can only be stretched so far.

The conclusion is no better. It's the worst kind of time travel plot device, where the resolution invalidates everything that came before. The Booster Gold who has been tortured by Bruce Wayne for the previous year can no longer exist. How can any Booster remember an event which never happened? (By the way, what happened to the corpse of the impossible Bruce Wayne? Or Skeets? Or the "other" Booster Gold? Damn this rabbit hole!) The resolution of "The Gift," as nonsensical as it is, makes it clear that its events can only affect one character (at most), and that character wasn't even the guy whose name is on the cover. If King hadn't tweeted otherwise, I would have assumed this story was filler so the wedding could take place in an issue with a nice, round number.

Speaking of Batman, he comes off just as poorly as Booster Gold does. As I wrote back in April, King ostensibly set out to recreate Alan Moore's "For The Man Who Has Everything..." by showing that the world was a worse place without Batman. However, instead of affirming the heroic value of one of the most popular fictional characters of all time, King instead successfully invalidates another of Moore's stories, The Killing Joke. In the end, all it takes is "one bad day" for Bruce Wayne to become a gun-toting murderer. Was that the goal, to demonstrate not that the world is better with Batman in it but that *Batman* is a better person because his parents died young? Unlike Booster, who King treats as a brain-dead court jester, Batman should be deserving of some respect. But no, his character is dragged through just as much mud.

If this story is any indication, King clearly cares nothing for characterization. Any excuse to write a feral Catwoman who kills for no apparent reason or a Batman who shoots first and asks questions never. (Or worse, Green Lanterns who shoot themselves in the head on a dare.) Judging by the quote above, I'm guessing that King intentionally ignored years of character development so that Booster Gold would be in position for that other story he wants to tell. Otherwise he certainly went out of his way to mangle some beloved characters for no obvious reason.


Maybe you were one of those people who who read "The Gift" and liked it. More power to you. In that case, perhaps you'd like to hear what has to speculate about this announcement.

Personally, I found the ridiculous premise, careless resolution, and misguided characterization insulting to some characters and artists I'm actually quite fond of. If "The Gift" is any indication of the kind of story that King likes to write, I'd prefer that he left Booster Gold on the sidelines instead.

FOOTNOTE 2018-05-18:

Great question! The answer is in the issues, I swear. What do you think? --@TomKingTK 2018-05-18

I'm guessing... lobotomy? (As I said above, "the excuse of immaturity can only be stretched so far.")

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Friday, May 11, 2018

Grab a Razor

Booster Gold fans who voted in Monday's poll were pretty clear that they want the beard to go.

Last week's poll question: Should Booster Gold keep his beard from BATMAN 46? (85 votes)

Should Booster Gold keep his beard from BATMAN 46?

Those of you who love the beard, take heart. You'll be seeing more of it before it goes away. Earlier this week, writer Tom King tweeted this image by artists Tony Daniel and Tomeu Morey from next week's Batman #47:

© DC Comics

I guess when Booster broke history, he also broke his razor.

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Friday, April 20, 2018

It's A Horrible Life

© DC Comics

On Monday, I expressed my sincere apprehensions about what I was seeing in previews for Batman #45, released on Wednesday. Now that I've had the issue and read it multiple times, I am relieved to say that my worst fears weren't realized. Writer Tom King's version of Booster Gold isn't a monster. He's just an idiot.

It’s easy to see what King was trying to do with the issue. Clearly influenced by the best deconstructionist superhero tales of Alan Moore and Frank Miller, he seeks to show us A) how the world is worse off without a Batman, and more importantly, B) how Batman isn’t the same sort of hero as Superman. This comparison is overt, as Moore’s “For The Man Who Has Everything...” from the 1985 Superman Annual #11 is specifically mentioned as Booster’s motivation. (Is it mere coincidence that the issue was released the same day as Action Comics #1000?) Unfortunately, the clumsy execution of King’s plan leaves a lot to be desired.

The biggest problem here is that while King’s inspiration for the story might have been high art, his template for Booster Gold was a Saturday morning cartoon, specifically Diedrich Bader's performance in Justice League Action where the character has been stripped down into a two-dimensional jester. Sadly, what works in an 11 minute cartoon for kids doesn't translate into the traditional DC Universe, especially not in the heavy story King is attempting here. Booster’s irresponsible attitude about a world gone mad – a world he created! – isn’t fun. It’s downright villainous.

Poor characterization isn't limited to Booster Gold. Frankly, Booster and Skeets are the only characters in the story given anything resembling depth. One-note Dick Grayson murders heroes. Jason Todd sells weapons. Bruce Wayne is a selfish fop. These aren't characters; they're paper dolls. Why? How? It doesn't matter. Like the graphic violence, characterization exist herein only for shock value. King explains nothing.

In a story celebrating comic book continuity and superhero motivation, there's no need for Booster be so irritatingly incompetent. With a little more effort, King could use Booster to accomplish all of the goals necessary to drive the plot without ignoring years of character development. And if Booster wouldn't work for where the story needs to go, there are plenty of other established characters in the DC Universe who King could have used to achieve the same ends without libeling Booster Gold’s character. Anyone who has read Superman Annual #11 should be able to come up with a few. (Chronos, Per Degaton, Professor Zoom, Time Trapper, Doctor Destiny, and Bat-Mite come to mind off the top of my head.) Back in the day, writers were even known to create new characters when they needed them for specific tasks.

I applaud King's intentions. I would always prefer for a writer to aim high and miss than not try at all. But in this case, in light of his clear misunderstanding about who Booster Gold is in the DCU and his disinterest in exploring the characters he is working with, the best I can say about Batman #45 is "it could have been worse." I'm not particularly eager for the follow up.

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Monday, April 16, 2018

Definitely NOT Awesome

© DC Comics

NO. Not even slightly awesome, you monster.

The above image was released late last week as part of the preview for this week's Batman #45. While I'm always reluctant to pre-judge a story before I've read it, I have to say that in all the years I've been tracking Booster Gold appearances, nothing has disappointed me more than what I've seen from this issue so far.

Before you read any further, know that I'm about to rant about what could be considered spoilers.




Still here? As we knew from last week's released previews, this story opens with Tony Daniel's drawing of Hal Jordan blowing out his brains with his ring. Very violently. Very graphically. Even putting aside the moral issues of suicide, that's not the sort of thing I want to see in my DC Comics.

But now we have the dialog that goes along with those pictures, and Jordan's death is nothing nearly so disgusting as the words coming out of Booster Gold's mouth in reaction.

Watching a man shoot himself in the head IS NOT AWESOME. Not a little bit. Not kind of. Never.

At no point in the published history of Booster Gold has the character ever expressed such an ugly sentiment. The character is a hero, yes a hero who has made many foolhardy decisions over the years, but never has he willfully allowed harm to come to someone else or glorified such violence or death in any way. To see those words coming out of the mouth of Michael Jon Carter literally turns my stomach.

It only makes matters worse knowing that this sort of shocking vulgarity isn't in a standalone Elseworlds book, but in Batman, DC's best selling ongoing title. I haven't purchased an issue of Batman in years, but I cringe at the thought that some parent might buy this to introduce Booster Gold to their kid. (As if shooting violence wasn't commonplace enough in schoolyards in 2018.)

If I sound like a sanctimonious prude, maybe I am. Maybe I'm overreacting because it's my hero espousing something I'd expect to hear from an ISIS recruit. But what would fans of Batman or Superman think if their idols said such things? In the DC Universe, Booster is a celebrity. In the real world, if a Kardashian reacted this way, how would their fans respond? I doubt there'd be much applause.

To be fair to issue writer Tom King, I haven't read the full story, and perhaps this is a trick. Maybe that's not Booster at all, but someone wearing his skin. Maybe it's an alternate evil timeline with a Booster Gold too immature or psychologically damaged to understand the callousness of his words. Maybe this takes place inside a simulation, and Booster's comment is a clumsy response to a well-crafted high-definition computer generated hologram. Maybe the Cosmic Cube has turned my hero into a Nazi. Weirder things have happened in comics. Still, I find it revolting that any DC Comics character should be implied to think such thoughts, much less give them voice.

Batman #45 gets the benefit of my doubt. But even if King and Daniel find some way to redeem the story, I doubt I'll be recommending anyone buy it. Personally, I don't think anyone needs a comic in their collection that shows Green Lantern's brains falling out of his skull while someone else laughs at it.

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Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Rule of Three

We've known for a month that Booster Gold will be in Batman #45 this April. DC released solicitations for May 2018 yesterday, and now we know many issues of Batman he'll be appearing in in total. The answer: 3.

Written by TOM KING
"THE TRAVELERS" part two! Booster Gold's wedding present has screwed up Batman's past, and done even more damage to his present. Now, with the Caped Crusader himself refusing to cooperate, the only way for Booster to correct this runaway timeline is to get Catwoman on his side. But with her own past altered, can he make Catwoman recognize the qualities in her husband-to-be that brought them together in the first place? Plus, if Batman isn't doing his job, Gotham City may become way more dangerous than our bumbling time-traveler might be ready for.
On sale MAY 2 • $2.99 US

Written by TOM KING
“THE TRAVELERS” part three! As Booster Gold, Batman and Catwoman zero in on the time anomaly, what they find and their actions to correct it will have ramifications on all of the DC Universe. Tom King and Master Class artist Tony S. Daniel end their first story with a bang that will tee up the next big development in the Batman/Catwoman romance.
On sale MAY 16 • $2.99 US

"Bumbling" time-traveler? They must be talking about someone else. We'll find out more in May.

(Note: Booster also will appear in a very, very small part in the announced Final Crisis: The 10th Anniversary Omnibus hardcover coming in September. I mention that only because it's's goal to cover every appearance of Booster Gold, not because I recommend that you buy it. I'd certainly never recommend that anyone buy a $150 book for only one or two panels of Booster Gold. Three is my limit.)

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