That Booster Gold has another series after all this time is a shock in-and-of-itself. That Booster Gold: 52 Pick-Up is good is nothing short of astounding. I guess it's true that there's indeed no such thing as a bad character, just bad concepts; taking Booster from Justice League cut-up to guardian of time (and still a cut-up) is a great concept, indeed.
That Booster Gold works, however, shouldn't be such a surprise, given that the elements within are the same tried-and-true methods that brought writer Geoff Johns (with Jeff Katz) success in Flash and Green Lantern. As far out as the stories get here, they all in some way relate back to Booster's character (much as Johns paralleled the Flash and his Rogues, or Hal Jordan and the rebuilding of Coast City). The writers write one of their best stories early on, where Booster meets a young Guy Gardner and finds they have more similarities than differences; Guy's problems with his family offer the reader insight into Booster's own.
In fact, Johns and Katz work to redeem Booster so far, I felt at times he became too likable. As artist (and Booster Gold creator) Dan Jurgens notes in his introduction, Booster was created to reflect the greedy ethos of the 1980s; even as he worked toward redemption, it still remained that Booster came from slimy beginnings. In the new version, Johns adds a slight retcon that Booster bet on future football games not for his own gains, but to pay off his father's gambling debts; this adds a note of nobility to Booster's origins that I'm not convinced it needed.
I don't spoil too much, given that the next Booster Gold trade is called Blue and Gold, to say that Blue Beetle Ted Kord makes an appearance here. Hearing this alone, and knowing the strong time travel elements to Booster Gold, my expectation is that Ted won't be allowed to remain alive in the time stream for fear of affecting some other events.
But, the last line of the trade, suggesting that both Booster and Beetle might be the greatest heroes nobody ever knew, living anonymously in the timestream, sounds really, really cool, and makes me very hopeful that Blue Beetle sticks around. Heck, couldn't they change the title to Booster Gold/Blue Beetle, and let both heroes share the spotlight? I imagine this would cause a bunch of messes in other titles, especially if other writers couldn't help but reintroduce Ted to their characters, letting alone that it might cheapen the impact of The OMAC Project -- but wouldn't it be really, really cool? I sense I'm destined to be disappointed in the next volume, but my excitement is a reflection of the power of the writing and the strength of the characters here.
I also appreciate that Booster Gold is a title where the writers are paying attention to the details. Rip Hunter's chalkboards are bar none one of the best things about this title, and I was thrilled to see not one, but two of them in this trade; the rips in time, showing everything from Anthro to Young Justice, are also a hoot. Dan Jurgens, whose art looks as good as ever, should also get a lot of credit -- he does a perfect Brian Bolland imitation when this book coincides with The Killing Joke, and the pointed look Batman gives Booster when Booster refuses Justice League membership in the beginning is spot on. (And who knows better than Batman about having a secret identity that pretends to be an idiot?)
Booster Gold is a fantastic superhero comic, beautifully drawn, with time travel used as a great metaphor for success and mourning. I'm gushing, I know, but it's exciting to find a comic book this good. Do yourself a favor and check it out.
[Contains full covers, introduction by Booster Gold creator Dan Jurgens.]
We're going to wade hip deep into The Sinestro Corps War now, and then on perhaps to some Hawkgirl. See you there!