Review: Blue & Gold trade paperback (DC Comics)


I was thinking of late how quickly “I remember everything” came and went in the finale of Dark Nights: Death Metal and the start of the Infinite Frontier era. Granted I’m not reading Dark Crisis yet, but if there’s an “everything” that anyone’s remembered outside of Death Metal, I haven’t seen evidence of it yet.

At the same time, Infinite Frontier has brought first Batgirls and now Blue & Gold, so I don’t have all that much to find fault with. Both of these seem like books that, as far back as the New 52 days if not even in the mid-2000s, DC was too much in their own IP to publish these even if the fans wanted them — “Surely three Batgirls would be too confusing for the audience” and “We can’t have Booster and Beetle running around when this here Big 7 is the JLA” (is how I presume the conversations might go).

But we’re in a different time now, one that seems to recognize that fun, and audience engagement, ought be the guiding light, and so everyone’s favorite Batgirls in one adventure together, Booster and Beetle, even multiple Supermen and Batmen and Wonder Women and Aquamen. And it’s great, and Blue & Gold is great, and while I think an ongoing series is biting off more than the creative team can chew, I dearly hope Dan Jurgens gets a shot at a sequel.

[Review contains spoilers]

I will always have great affection for Jurgens' work from back in the Superman days, and from before “Death of Superman” too, I might add. But in the modern era there’s as much a tendency for Jurgens' work to go wrong instead of right, with what seems at times like forced hip-ness. When early in the book Booster Gold cites social media platforms “NikNok, Blisster, and Facebase,” these are the kind of intentional malpropisms that probably sounded better in the head than they do on the page. Eight issues of a self-involved Booster and Blue Beetle Ted Kord, as Jurgens did a weak impression of Giffen and DeMatteis, wouldn’t be good for anyone.

[See the latest DC trade solicitations.]

But instead, Blue & Gold succeeds heartily, if not in the least because Jurgens lets some of where these characters have been in the last 30-odd years seep over into the present. Booster is as mercenary as ever, though his 1980s “greed is good” aesthetic has evolved into a quest for social media followers — but smartly, Jurgens brings in Rip Hunter and other elements from the recent Booster Gold that ground Booster despite the character himself. For Beetle, Jurgens does yeoman’s work sewing together disparate elements as separate as Forever Evil and Tom Taylor’s Suicide Squad to present a Ted Kord fun and familiar but with relatable pathos.

Not to mention - speaking of “I remember everything” — that Jurgens not only references the classic Keith Giffen/J.M. DeMatteis Justice League International era (with guest art even from Kevin Maguire), but even Jurgens' own Superman-led League with Booster, Beetle, Fire, Ice, and Maxima. Surely somehow or another this doesn’t make sense in the broader DC Universe, but within the confines of Jurgens' miniseries, that the actual Booster and Beetle of yesteryear are on the page saving the lives of the current Brian Michael Bendis Justice League is a joy to behold.

The story follows tropes not wholly different than we’ve seen Booster and Beetle in before (specifically in Formerly Known as the Justice League), in which the heroes fashion themselves heroes-for-hire accessible to the average joe. That’s a miss on Jurgens' part, though as it turns out, for better or worse, most of the hired-heroing happens between the pages, with either logistical struggles or unrelated adventures making up the bulk of the story.

It almost seems as though Jurgens got two extra issues of Blue & Gold unexpectedly (though the solicits were always for eight), since the first six issues see the heroes fighting an alien threat, and in the last two, an entirely different old enemy (with no foreshadowing whatsoever). It does make for a book that feels inelegantly structured, not to mention the fifth chapter that seemingly starts right after the fourth, but then jumps dizzyingly (and unnecessarily) back and forth a bit. But with all due respect, none of it is particularly unexpected for a Dan Jurgens book nor a Booster/Beetle book, and so I’m more sanguine about it than I might normally be.

Along with Rip Hunter, Jurgens brings back from his original Booster Gold series Trixie Collins (now Terri, as everyone’s grown up except Booster). Terri discovers Booster is Rip’s future father (and probably that she’s his mother), and together the two change time to help the heroes out of a jam.

To that end, it does rather seem like Jurgens has more story to tell, as cosmic as the fallout from what seems a big Time Master no-no and as sitcom-esque as the dispensation of two of the heroes' ardent social media fans who Jurgens seems to forget about after the sixth chapter. Ted, here, never completes his character arc, letting down his late father and being ousted from his family’s own company without the story ever finding peace with it.

Terri also appears disappointed with Booster at first, only later popping up to save the heroes' financial lives. I wondered if Jurgens was simply inconsistent with how he was writing her, or if we’re meant to suspect secret hard feelings behind Terri’s magnanimousness. I maintain that Jurgens' original Booster Gold is a deceptively nuanced book, particularly in the personality triangle of Booster, Trixie, and Booster’s agent Dirk Davis, and particularly given the Trixie/Terri switch, I’d like to hope Jurgens has a scene in him that addresses where the characters are and where they’ve come since the early days.

Series artist Ryan Sook is a get, to be sure, wonderfully better than you’d ever think a Blue Beetle/Booster Gold miniseries would warrant. Purposefully or not, when the tone of the book gets darker toward the middle, Sook’s own inks and Wade Von Grawbadger’s over him get muddier, pleasantly taking the book from shiny to gritty with the same artist. Even the book’s guest artists are the likes of Cully Hamner and Phil Hester. It’s also a treat to see former Booster/Beetle artists included — the aforementioned Maguire, Jurgens himself, and Paul Pelletier.



It takes about two issues for Blue & Gold to get started, there’s a bunch of villains getting killed toward the end that Dan Jurgens just sweeps under the rug, and there’s a gay panic gag that I think demonstrates Jurgens' humor not always keeping up with the times. But it is nicely a sequel, among other things, to the recent Booster Gold series that Jurgens was part of, not to mention the ways it spans Booster and Blue Beetle’s shared histories. I couldn’t ask for more in what is remarkably the first independent Booster/Beetle miniseries in the almost 40 years Booster Gold’s been around. Let’s hope the next one comes sooner.

[Includes original and variant covers]

Comments ( 3 )

  1. I am as big a fan of Dan Jurgens, I think, as you are, and he's always worth a look. I was a little disappointed with this one, only because it didn't bowl me over, but it did pretty much exactly what it said on the tin.

    I couldn't help recalling, though, that I met Dan Jurgens at a con in 2019, and he told me he'd been pitching a Blue & Gold book for years. I told him I'd buy it in a heartbeat, and he suggested I mention that to a certain editorial figure who was also attending the con. I did, and said editor didn't exactly embrace the idea. Lo and behold, that editor isn't at DC anymore, and shortly after his departure, this book got announced. I can't help but wonder if there's a dot to be connected there, but I had that memory in my head while reading this book, and that context certainly warmed me to "Blue & Gold." Finally, I thought, Dan got what he wanted.

    1. Dare I ask, "editor" or "Editor"?

    2. Maybe "editor" was the wrong word... "publisher" might have been nearer the mark.


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