Review: Booster Gold: Past Imperfect trade paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, August 08, 2011

On one hand, if you like Keith Giffen and J. M. DeMatteis's Justice League, then Booster Gold: Past Imperfect captures with remarkable accuracy the comedy and writing of that earlier time, even more so than the writers' previous League reunion series Formerly Known As and I Can't Believe It's Not the Justice League. On the other hand, though billed as a companion to Justice League: Generation Lost, to which Giffen contributes, Past Imperfect's connections are thin-to-nonexistant, and its relevance to the ongoing DC Universe is essentially nil beyond being a funny Booster Gold story.

Depending on your preference, you might want to skip this book entirely in favor of more Flashpoint-related or DC Comics Relaunch Booster Gold fare, or this might be exactly the book for you.

[Contains spoilers]

Keith Giffen mostly left the DC Comics spotlight after Justice League and Legion of Super-Heroes, returning to prominence around DC's 52 series. The fact of Giffen's ongoing work at DC, and that he's able to write such titles as Booster Gold, suggests there is neither a concentrated effort by DC to undercut Giffen's Justice League work (killing Elongated Man's wife Sue Dibny, Blue Beetle Ted Kord, and Rocket Red Dmitri Pushkin) nor (too) hard feelings toward DC on Giffen's part.

Readers will have to take Giffen and DeMatteis's words with a grain of salt here, however, because they lay it on thick (as they're wont to do) -- Booster shouts at new Justice Leaguer Cyborg "We were not a joke! We mattered!" right at the beginning of the second chapter, and later they note tongue in cheek how hard it was for DeMatteis to write that Maxwell Lord killed Blue Beetle. This is aside from their book-wide send-up of the post-52 Booster Gold concept of Booster as the "greatest hero you've never heard of" -- a tagline Booster claims to hate but also repeats to everyone he meets. The writers' ridicule, I have no doubt, is directed toward the general absurdity of comics in general, and not a smack at Geoff Johns and Dan Jurgens's Booster Gold.

Still, the book does seem to obsess over Booster trying to understand how Max could have been his friend before and his enemy now, with no clear solution. Max only appears onscreen once in this book, when Booster has time-traveled to the past, in a mild two-page scene where he first scolds and later praises Booster. The encounter leaves Booster even more confused, and the reader, too. Of course we know the "Max good/bad" debate doesn't have an answer -- it's retroactive continuity, pure and simple, to serve a pre-Infinite Crisis plotline -- but there's a sense in which Booster, Giffen, and DeMattis are searching for something deeper here, an imponderable "why" as to the nature of innocence and what brought we, the comics community as a whole, to Blue Beetle's death, that ultimately they're unable to resolve.

Those weightier issues, however, are almost entirely overwhelmed by Giffen and DeMatteis releasing years of pent up absurdity. I, for one, do like Judd Winick's Generation Lost better than Giffen and DeMatteis's Booster Gold, because at times the silliness gets so thick it eclipses any sense of an actual story, especially when Blue Beetle Ted Kord shows up, and the actual story's pretty silly in its own right. Giffen and DeMatteis are writing their own Mel Brooks movie here between ridiculous on-the-nose villains like Estrogina, witless underlings with Yiddish-derrived names (P'upik, anyone?), and ongoing gags about future-Booster's hair-loss. It's all more bizarre than funny, and only if that's your thing is this the thing for you.

Standard disclaimers apply that yes, not every comic must be completely tied in to DC Comics's latest mega-event, but when Past Imperfect's back cover shows Booster ruminating over an image of Max, you'd think Generation Lost would matter more here. Instead, Imperfect takes place loosely between the pages of Lost and is more about Booster and Beetle in the past hunting a lost artifact (and getting into goofy trouble) than Booster and Max's conflict. Amusingly, Giffen has Booster revisit many of Giffen's own greatest DC hits here -- The Great Darkness Saga, Invasion!, and Giffen and DeMatteis's General Glory; this is a funny use of a time-travel story and I smiled at the in-jokes, but it's not exactly what the solicitations promised.

[Includes original covers]

I said in my previous review that Judd Winick's Generation Lost is not Giffen and DeMatteis's Justice League proper, but rather that Justice League filtered through Winick. Booster Gold: Past Imperfect is completely unfiltered, in many senses of that word, and as such serves as a better reunion to the 1980s Justice League than the actual reunion comics do. Whether that's a good thing, I'm not sure -- I believe it upholds my claim that 1980s comics weren't perhaps quite as cool as we'd like to think now that they were -- but again, if it's your kind of thing, then it'll be the kind of thing for you.

In what should be an interesting comparison, up next we have a review of Power Girl: Bomb Squad, which also crosses over with Generation Lost, this time by Winick. See you then!
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4 comments:

  1. I've only read this trade once, but I do remember enjoying it less than I did the previous trades by Johns or Jurgens. Don't get me wrong, I still liked it and Booster Gold (as of today) WAS one of my favourite ongoings and I will sorely miss it. Although I have yet to read the final 5 issues of Giffen and Dematteis' run, so i've still something to look forward to.

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  2. It'll be kind of a funny trade if DC collects the last five issues of the Giffen/DeMatteis run with the Jurgens Flashpoint stories, but I am hoping we get all the Booster issues collected in the end and none are skipped.

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  3. I'm still waiting for the to collect the two starro stories by rick remender from #13 and 14. I don't know what the odds of them collecting those issues are now.

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  4. Those issues related, or would have related, to Remender's story in All-New Atom, if I recall correctly. I believe Chronos and his female counterpart appeared.

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