Review: Superman: Action Comics Vol. 5: Booster Shot (Rebirth) trade paperback (DC Comics)

It seemed fitting that Dan Jurgens, key author of the best-known Superman story of all time, would punctuate his triumphant return to the character by revealing the answer to one of the best Superman mysteries in recent memory, the identity of Mr. Oz, and carrying that revelation through to the landmark Action Comics #1000.

Unfortunately, things didn't turn out that way.

Instead, the Oz Effect largely fizzled, being a mostly predictable story where the good guy was right, the bad guy was wrong, and not much changed in DC's larger Rebirth narrative. Jurgens' Rebirth Action Comics run, we found, would end not with a bang but with a whimper in Action Comics #1000, with just a one-off story to serve as the sudden end to Jurgens' run ahead of Brian Michael Bendis' arrival. Such are the fickle fates of comics.

We're left then with Superman: Action Comics Vol. 5: Booster Shot, representative of some of the best and worst that Jurgens has to offer. In what feels like a swan song (though Jurgens remains, for now, on Batman Beyond), Jurgens takes the opportunity to return to Booster Gold, the character he created a few years before his Superman work began; that's fitting but then again, Booster replaces Superman somewhat in his own book.

At this crucial moment, Jurgens' Superman himself is subpar, full of bravado and often mindless pigheadedness; at the same time, Jurgens offers smart parallels to Superman's emotional upset in the plights of Lois Lane and Booster. Perhaps no send-off would be perfect under these circumstances; Booster Shot tries but doesn't hit the mark.

[Review contains spoilers]

From my perspective, Booster Shot is off-kilter from among its earliest pages, when Superman refers to "that psychopath Mr. Oz" -- Oz, revealed to be Superman's father Jor-El, who repented his actions at the end of Oz Effect. I'd hardly expect Superman to call that person a "psychopath," except nothing more than the most base reactions seem to be at play here. Though Superman is de-powered, confronted with obviously superior force, and time-traveled to the past where he ought know not to make a scene, Superman still haughtily emotes, "I don't run." Again and again, Jurgens has Superman stubbornly refuse to understand that, in traveling to alternate pasts and futures, nothing he sees has any meaning, and multiple times Booster has to talk Superman into not making big changes to the timeline despite that such actions might effectively kill Lois and their son Jon, not to mention wipe out the timeline itself.

These are assuredly lessons Superman knows. These are assuredly the lessons Superman would impart on some other superhero time-traveling in his same position. What sense Jurgens sees in Superman continuously refusing to lay low, being wholly ignorant of how time travel works, and generally acting holier-than-thou toward Booster, I'm not sure -- except that, by having Superman play the dummy, it allows for Jurgens to move the plot along through Superman and Booster's dialogue. Again, for especially what could have been such a key volume in the entire history of Superman, it's so unfortunate how Jurgens comports Superman here.

I am glad that Jurgens takes the final regular-series chapter, Action Comics #999, as his own personal anniversary issue, replete with Jon kicking off the book in a "1000" hat. This issue is good in that Jurgens brings full circle one of his other major Superman creations, the Cyborg Superman; the ethicality of Superman choosing to drug Hank Henshaw rather than keep him locked in the Phantom Zone is iffy, but I get what Jurgens intended. Also a major simmering storyline in Jurgens' Action run has been what happened between Lois and Sam Lane, so it's nice he ties that up before the end. My memory's fuzzy on whether we ever saw Booster confront his parents in the original Booster Gold series; but that's well-done here too (plus a cameo by Broderick, the original Javert to Booster's Valjean), giving the whole book a theme of parents and children.

I had thought that the Superman and Action Comics specials announced in the wake of the abrupt Super-team switchover were meant to give Patrick Gleason and Peter Tomasi and Jurgens the opportunity to finish up their respective stories. Superman, with trunks, is portrayed better in Jurgens' "Last Will and Testament of Lex Luthor" than in "Booster Shot," but the story itself seemed small, less important or far-reaching than I expected. We do see Lex's new super-suit in the aftermath of Tomasi and Gleason's Superman Vol. 6: Imperius Lex, but little to no reflection on Jurgens' part on Superman and Lex's now-failed partnership, which had been a major component of Jurgen's Action run. Ultimately I wondered if this story was specially-written at all, or if this wasn't just a one- or two-parter already in place for Action that DC repurposed.

Support Collected Editions -- Purchase Superman: Action Comics Vol. 5: Booster Shot

As I mentioned in my review of Imperius Lex, comics endings are tough. In the beginning, all the possibility is there; a creative team always has the ability to start a story strong, but cancellations or sudden changes can take all the power out of an ending, even preempt an ending entirely. Superman: Action Comics Vol. 5: Booster Shot is not a great ending, though it has a lot of good ending elements. At one point Superman crash lands into the Superman memorial statue that came out of Dan Jurgens' "Death of Superman," smashing it to riotous pieces. Yes indeed; we see you, sir.

[Includes original and variant covers; Dan Jurgens cover sketches]

Review Date
Reviewed Item
Superman: Action Comics Vol. 5: Booster Shot
Author Rating
3 (scale of 1 to 5)


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