Booster Gold volume 3: Reality Lost


By Chuck Dixon, Dan Jurgens & Norm Rapmund (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-2249-9                  978-1-84856-250-9 (Titan Books UK edition)

After the cosmos-crunching Crisis on Infinite Earths re-sculpted the DC Universe in 1986, a host of characters got floor-up rebuilds for the tougher, no-nonsense, straight-shooting New American readership of the Reagan era.

Corporate buy-outs such as Blue Beetle, Captain Atom and The Question were assimilated into DC’s roster beside revamped versions of their own hotly hyped solo titles. There were even all-new launches for the altered sensibilities of the Decade of Excess: tradition-challenging concepts such as Suicide Squad and a shiny, happy, headline-hungry hero named Booster Gold.

The cobalt & yellow paladin debuted amidst plenty of hoopla in his own title (February 1986 – the first post-Crisis premiere of the freshly integrated superhero line) presenting wholly different approaches to DC’s army of old-school costumed boy-scouts.

Created, written and drawn by Dan Jurgens, the saga featured a brash, cockily mysterious metahuman golden-boy jock who had set up his stall as a superhero in Metropolis, actively seeking corporate sponsorships, selling endorsements and with a management team in place to maximise the profit potential of his crusading celebrity.

Accompanied everywhere by sentient, flying, football-shaped robot Skeets, the glitzy showboat soon encountered high-tech criminal gang The 1000 and a host of super-villains, earning the ire of many sinister masterminds and the shallow approbation of models, actresses, headline-hungry journalists, politicians and the ever fickle public…

His time came and went and Booster’s title folded, but he lived on as part of Justice League International where he became roughly half of comics’ funniest double-act riffing off the aforementioned Blue Beetle.

Booster and Ted Kord (technically the second Blue Beetle) were the class clowns of billionaire Maxwell Lord’s League: a couple of obnoxiously charming frat-boys who could save the day but never get the girl or any respect. When Lord murdered Beetle, precipitating an Infinite Crisis, Booster was shattered but eventually redefined himself as a true hero in the multiversal conflagrations of 52 and Countdown.

In landmark weekly maxi-series 52 and ultimately Infinite Crisis, the intriguing take on Heroism diverged down strange avenues when Booster – a hero traditionally only in it for fame and fortune – became a secret saviour, repairing the cracks in Reality caused by all the universe-warping shenanigans of myriad multiversal Crises and uncontrolled time-travel.

Working at the instruction of enigmatic and irascible mentor Rip Hunter: Time Master, Booster relinquished his dreams of fame and acclaim to save us all over and over and over again.

This third time-bending full-colour collection gathers issues #11, 12 and 15-19 of the Booster Gold comicbook (volume 2, spanning October 2008 to June 2009), revealing further progress in the time-guardians’ never-ending battle to keep history on track and mankind in existence.

The action opens with Jurgens & Norm Rapmund illustrating a sequence scripted by Batman scribe Chuck Dixon. ‘Vicious Cycle’ finds Rip, Booster and his freshly resurrected sister Michelle at a loss after a recent Gotham visit. After Batman, Robin and Batgirl rout B-list bad guy Killer Moth at Gotham Museum, a simultaneous robbery by meekly ineffectual Wiley Dalbert causes the dynamic trio to blink out of existence…

After experiencing the urban hell of Gotham without Batman, the team start trying to rectify the situation and learn Killer Moth’s score was planned by Dalbert as cover so that the little time traveller could swipe an ancient Egyptian knife.

Popping back further to sneakily replace the Moth, Booster clandestinely carries out the fateful robbery and stops Wiley too… but that only makes the restored reality infinitely worse…

Forced to try again – this time with Booster as Batman and Michelle impersonating Batgirl – events spiral into even crazier and more contorted convolutions (humiliating too!) before an approximate restoration of history is re-established…

Sadly the time-team’s ultra-secret efforts have brought them to the attention of stretchable sleuth Ralph Dibny, the Elongated Man

Following a two-part battle against Chronos and Starro the Conqueror – not collected in this edition- the temporal turbulence resumes with ‘Reality Lost’ from #15-18 plus #19’s ‘Reality Lost: Epilogue’; written and pencilled by Jurgens with Rapmund again handling the inking chores.

Having dragged Michelle from her surprise role as Da Vinci’s muse, Booster tries to return them to Rip’s secret lab only to find it no longer exists. Thanks to Skeets’ encyclopaedic history files and temporal processors, the stranded chrononauts discover the current crisis stems from unfinished business at the museum where they met Wiley Dalbert…

Booster sets his Wayback Machine for that apparently accursed night, and walks into a trap and is attacked by Dibny. A few years from then they would be best friends in Justice League International, but at that instant the blue and gold figure is nothing more than a bold bandit as far as the Ductile Detective is concerned…

Concealing the horrors which would soon destroy Dibny’s life, Booster nevertheless convinces Elongated Man of his bona fides before enlisting his aid in tracking down the time anomaly playing hob with reality. The root cause is the ancient knife, but the real problem is that it’s been taken by Booster’s villainous, time-bending dad Rex Hunter, precipitating a perilous odyssey through the ages to recover it…

Leaving Ralph and Michelle to search time for Rip Hunter, Gold starts to hunt for the accursed blade…

Poignant pit-stops in World War I, ancient Egypt and his personal time-line result in deadly encounters with Enemy Ace Hans von Hammer, pre-lightning bolt Barry Allen, time-bandit Chronos, and even his own earlier, surlier, self-absorbed self. Through it all Booster learns the true price and value of his secret career.

Preserving the way things are causes pain and humiliation, costs everything he ever cared about and promises nothing but frustration and early death. He even had a chance to save Ted Kord after meeting Max Lord’s father before the maniac was born but lacked the guts to do what he wanted to…

After the triumph and tragedy, a potent vignette by Jurgens & Rapmund wraps things up with a recap of Booster’s ‘Origins and Omens’ of his immediate future: first seen as a teaser produced during the lead-up to twinned publishing events Blackest Night and Brightest Day

Sadly, despite its dark and foreboding appeal, moments of sheer comedy gold and fast-paced action throughout, this engaging rollercoaster ride is ultimately a true fans’ story for die-hard Fights ‘n’ Tights devotees. That’s a great shame since this is also a fabulously well-crafted story that a wider audience would certainly appreciate if only they had sufficient back-grounding.

Perhaps DC’s current TV iterations will generate enough interest to get new readers picking up old stories and joining in the fun that’s still waiting to be had…
© 2008, 2009 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.