Booster Gold (vol.2) #5 (February, 2008)
“52 Pickup, Chapter 5: No Joke”
Writers – Geoff Johns & Jeff Katz
Penciller – Dan Jurgens
Finishes – Norm Rapmund
Colors – Hi-Fi & Lee Loughridge
Letters – Nick J. Napolitano
Assistant Editor – Harvey Richards
Editor – Michael Siglain
Cover Price: $2.99
Been saving this one for after the big Boo Haunted Blog “event”. Hope anybody who stuck with me dug it.
Reggie and I discussed this issue on The Cosmic Treadmill a few weeks back (Episode 94 for time-travelers). We had a great time going over not only this issue itself, but all the controversy surrounding its source material. I was really proud of the way it came out, so definitely… if you are interested, please give it a listen. You should listen to the whole show, but if you’re just wanting to hear the Boosterific bits, it starts at time-stamp 6:47:12.
We open some years back. Batgirl, Barbara Gordon is dealing a finishing blow to the Scarecrow atop a Gotham City building. A bit later, we see her talking to Commissioner Gordon. She almost slips and calls him “dad”. She quickly corrects herself, and refers to him as “detective”, which he’s not… but that doesn’t matter all that much. He appears to be rather taken with her… which tells me he either knows she’s his daughter… or that things might get a bit weird.
Back in the present, we visit Rip Hunter’s time lab. Here Rip is keeping a man who referred to himself as Rex Hunter prisoner. I’m assuming they’d caught him in an earlier chapter. What’s awesome about Rip’s lab is the cryptic notes scrawled across his several chalkboards. Each one is a potential hint about things that are about to happen in the DC Universe. I remember being obsessed with these things.
Rip tells Booster that he’s got another time-gig for him. This time he is to stop Barbara Gordon from becoming paralyzed at the hands of the Joker. It’s funny… for such a huge event in not only Bat-history, but comics-history… they’re both pretty nonchalant about this. It’s like… “Okay, save Babs… no big.” Anyhoo, Rip promises that as soon as Barbara is saved, they can turn their attention toward bringing back Ted Kord.
Booster gets Quantum Leaped, leaving Rip to interrogate his “brother” Rex… and by interrogate, I mean poke and prod him with all matter of pointy things until he cracks. Rip Hunter don’t mess around when it comes to procuring information.
Booster arrives at the carnival from The Killing Joke. He confers with Skeets until some oddly-shaped shadows appear. Before he can act, he gets jumped by a clan of carnies. They hit him with a paralysis dart before pummeling him, de-masking him, and kayoing him with some gas.
Now, for something completely different… we join the current Blue Beetle Jaime Reyes as he takes in a lucha libre show with Mr. Smith. Before they get too comfortable, the Black Beetle appears a row behind them, and advises Jaime that he is needed. They both vanish in a burst of light.
Back at the carnival, Booster returns to consciousness… that’s the good news. The bad news is, the Joker is standing before him. The Joker doesn’t appear to recognize Booster… which is kind of the joke of this volume… and decides to dispose of him by having one of the, ahem, larger carnies drive a novelty rail-car into him.
We rejoin Rip and Rex. Rex looks much worse for wear at this point… but he’s still not talking. Well, except for threatening to go back in time to snuff out Booster in the crib. Rip fears that someone may have found out Rex’s real name, and refers to him as Jason. Just when it appears that he may be getting somewhere, Rex vanishes.
We shift to somewhere… and somewhen… the Ultra-Humanite, Per Degaton, and Despero… who appears to be the pre-Crisis variation are standing in a nursery. It appears as though they just snuffed out a child… named Jason… in the crib.
Booster wakes up hanging in a cell. Skeets cuts him down, but it’s clear that he is likely too late to successfully complete his mission. At that very moment, Barbara Gordon is serving a tray of coffee for her and her father… and the Joker arrives at an apartment building.
What follows is an incredible take on “the” scene from The Killing Joke. Dan Jurgens absolutely nails Brian Bolland’s style… and the panels are juxtaposed with Booster’s (failed) attempt at rescue. Barbara still gets shot… and goes through the glass table.
Although he’s too late to save Ms. Gordon, Booster still jumps into action. He makes quick work of a pair of Joker-cronies… but the man himself gets the better of him. Just when the Joker is about to blow Booster’s brains out, he gets pulled back to the present. As Reggie pointed out during the podcast, the Joker does pull the trigger here. This wasn’t just him taking aim. He would have killed Booster, had he not “leaped”.
Booster wakes up back in Rip Hunter’s lab. He is informed that the mission was a failure… and so, he begs for another shot. What follows are several more shots… each failing in different ways.
He returns to Rip’s place again… and this time, Rip refuses to send him back. Ya see, he was doing this to make a point. There are just some moments in the past that are “fixed”. They will never change no matter how hard Booster tries. He was doing this to inform him that Ted Kord’s death is, in fact, irreversible.
Booster shoves Rip… he quits the time-mastering biz and proceeds to walk out… and then… the Black Beetle, Blue Beetle… and even the original Blue Beetle arrive in the lab… they have need of Booster… the mission: Save… Ted Kord?
Just like we discussed on the Podcast… this was one hell of an issue. Such a great way of using the Booster character… and the current Time Mastery gimmick. Really felt like this series “mattered”, even though it didn’t make any sweeping changes to the continuity. Booster’s tagline of being “The Greatest Super Hero You’ve Never Heard of!” is wonderfully fitting during this era.
This is probably the closest thing to a dream team for me creatively. I don’t think Geoff Johns nor Dan Jurgens have disappointed me yet. I’ve enjoyed just about everything they’ve done. Gotta say, Jurgens doing Bolland was incredibly impressive… looked awesome!
Like I mentioned on the show, I appreciated that this used The Killing Joke to illustrate that there are fixed points in time that simply cannot be changed. Granted this is at least a continuity ago… but, dammit… it was my continuity, and as far as I’m concerned it’s still the “real” one.
Booster and Rip’s relationship… which, at this point in time was still on the nebulous side. There were hints here and again as to a familial link between them, but if I’m not mistaken, no cats were let outta the bag just yet. Seeing Booster being led by the carrot on a string of bringing back his best buddy is pretty heartbreaking. We get the impression that it’s all he can think about. It’s been some time since I’ve read Countdown to Infinite Crisis, but I seem to remember their last words to one another weren’t terribly cordial. I believe Ted was hot on the trail of the OMAC Project, and Booster was too wrapped up in his own sponsorships and what-not to give a brother a hand. Gotta figure the guilt is driving him mad.
As for The Killing Joke itself… I feel it’s a… story. It’s not my favorite… but I don’t hate it either. I have some problems with it… especially the way it ended. It may not be a popular opinion, but I really dislike that Batman laughed at the Joker’s joke. I’m not sure if that was some Moore-ian symbolism that I missed, but I didn’t dig it. Now for the Batgirl-to-Oracle facilitation… I don’t have any problem with it. I quite like it, in fact.
To me, Barbara Gordon was never more heroic than when she was Oracle. This best illustrates her strength and character. She overcomes a debilitating injury, and somehow turns it all around to become the most inspiring and vital character among DC’s pantheon of heroes. Again, it may not be the popular opinion, but I feel that returning her to the Batgirl togs did her a true disservice. She’s now just another costumed hero, when we all know she can be and has been so much more than that.
I guess I’ll leave it at that… just so I don’t grow this tangent to planet-sized status. Suffice it to say, there’s still a ton of things we can discuss about this… but, this is a Booster piece… I’m sure The Killing Joke will raise its head again at some point. This is an issue that, regardless of where you stand on the source material, gets my highest recommendation. The post-52 Booster Gold volume was… well, gold. It’s been collected and is available digitally if you are interested.