Dan Jurgens has been one of my favorite artists for a long time -- Death of Superman has nothing on how long I've enjoyed Jurgens' work. To borrow a phrase, I could likely read Jurgens illustrating the phone book, and to that end I'm likely to be more forgiving of a book by Jurgens just for the enjoyment of his art. Indeed, Booster Gold: Day of Death, Jurgens' second volume both writing and drawing the series, is a great sampling of his work, and delves back in an enjoyable way to DC Comics history. But at the same time, Day of Death mines ground already well-trod by the Booster Gold series, and it suggests a need for the creative team change that's already on its way in a few volumes.
The story Jurgens tells in Day of Death is essentially "Batman Reborn" by way of Booster Gold; that is, Batman was the only one who knew Booster's real time-travelling mission, Batman is dead, and now Booster has to deal with it. This is a great conceit that ties well into Booster's own loneliness and frustration over his reputation as a buffoon; before, he could only talk to Batman, and now he can't talk to anyone. Jurgens' stories, especially this volume, suggest a more serious tension between Booster and Rip Hunter that wasn't in Geoff Johns' earlier run, and I'm curious to see where Jurgens goes with that (meanwhile, Booster's ancestor Daniel Carter, introduced in 52, has all but disappeared from the series).
Enter new Batman Dick Grayson, himself struggling with the loneliness that Batman's cowl brings. The machinations of the evil Black Beetle force Booster into Dick's past -- specifically, the Teen Titans' classic first battle with the demon Trigon -- and in the resolution of the resulting conflict, both Booster and Dick have a better understanding of one another and a new ally. It's simple, perhaps, but the Booster's-loss-of-Batman story needed to be told, and Jurgens' story hits the right notes. The scenes set right between the pages of Marv Wolfman and George Perez's New Teen Titans #2 are especially fun.
My qualm is that Jurgens extends the story by sending Booster, Rip Hunter, and the Titans' Raven into an apocalyptic alternate future where Trigon rules -- a future not remarkably different from the apocalyptic future where Max Lord ruled into which Geoff Johns sent Booster and friends in Booster Gold: Blue and Gold. In fact, Jurgens even makes the mistake of positing Green Arrow as the future's underground rebel leader, just like Johns did.
There are cute moments here in Jurgens' use of Kyle Rayner and his romance with Zatanna, but the future doesn't have the same pop as when Johns used Pantha and Wild Dog. The story yawns a bit, and it seems to have something of a quandary -- Booster Gold is a time-traveller, yes, but how many times can he fight for his life in an alternate future or a revised past before it begins to run together? The book begs to be treated to a Quantum Leap-like approach: Booster fixes time anomalies, sure, but other times he's just in time, taking an identity alongside the JSA one week and crossing over with Legion of Super-Heroes the next.
Day of Death starts with two one-issue stories, a Brave and the Bold issue with Magog and "1952 Pickup" by upcoming Booster writer Keith Giffen, and both are interesting in their own way. The Brave and the Bold team-up ends very suddenly without the expected understanding between Booster and Magog; instead, Magog comes off rather violent and unlikeable, and it's hard to imagine the character supporting his own title (which, it was recently announced, he no longer will -- Magog is cancelled, but the final story suggests some time travel aspect and as such, maybe an additional tie to Booster). Giffen's "1952 Pickup" is a detailed story written in chapters, much like a 1950s comic, that teams Booster with the original Task Force X "Suicide Squad" -- it's this kind of story with which I think Booster Gold could do well, and Giffen makes an effective contribution here.
[Contains full covers]
The next volume of Booster Gold promises a conclusion to the Black Beetle storyline, almost as old as this title itself, and that, combined with the Blackest Night crossover and presumably Dan Jurgens' getting to draw a wider swath of the DC Universe, makes this a sure thing for me; and I liked Giffen's one-shot enough that I should be here for his debut, too. If I thought that Jurgens was leaving the DC Universe altogether after Booster Gold, I'd be the loudest advocating his staying, but Jurgens moving to Time Masters and Giffen coming on this title seems exactly the right solution; maybe sometimes things work out after all.