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This giant showcase volume houses black and white reprints of the original Booster Gold run by Dan Jurgens (who you may know from the Death of Superman.) He’s one of those hard working creators who writes and draws most of his work and every issue here is headed by him, except for Action Comics 594, which is written and illustrated by John Byrne. In them, we’re introduced to fan-favorite Booster, created to be a bit different than your average superhero.
First of all, he’s not always that bright. And he can be a total jerk. Plus he’s quite happy to use his powers to gain fame and money, which he’s not afraid to use. But just because he’s not a saint doesn’t mean he isn’t a do-gooder (just not a selfless one.) He’s actually a very likable guy. And he’s an excellent comment on 80s culture (without being a psychotic killer al a American Psycho.)
Many fans first met Booster in the pages of 52, after which he was awarded his own well-reviewed ongoing. He’s also a founding member of the Justice League International and has bounced around through various DC titles since his creation. His slight popularity during the modern age is probably what earned us this collection, which I’m very thankful for – any post-crisis showcase is impressive – this is actually the most recent material collected in this format!
It’s not as good as full color reprints, but perhaps the format is fitting. It gives Booster fans and people with an interest in DC history a chance to read the origins of the character, but probably wouldn’t sell well enough in color to warrant this much being printed (probably over 3 or 4 volumes.) It’s mainly because while the work is very enjoyable, it’s rarely particularly deep. It just isn’t intended to be.
The character’s origins can be read as social commentary, but the book is really straight up entertainment. Jurgens does an amazingly consistent job serving up fun little conflicts amid soap opera drama surrounding Booster’s personal life, and later, company. It’s not always joke after joke, but it’s never too down either (though the Booster gets a lot more serious here than he ever does in later volumes.)
Booster is introduced with a time travel twist, stumbles his way around the DC Universe meeting and battling minor baddies (as well as a few major heroes), joins the Justice League (though his adventures with them are not included in this volume), and bounces around time with Rip Hunter, Time Master (which helped me understand some moments in Animal Man and other books that involve time travel.)
Besides Booster, his tiny robotic sidekick Skeets helps keep the story moving, and evolves into a lovable character in his own right. There’s the usual cast of non-coms that every superhero seems to have – the love interest, friends, possibly a father figure – in this case mostly employed at Booster’s company. They’re likable, if not particularly memorable.
There are some very enjoyable interactions with Superman, who doesn’t like Booster one bit. It’s understandable, as they both work out of metropolis with very different mentalities. Booster is often on the wrong side of a conflict, actually, but that’s part of what makes this book so enjoyable. It’s never really subtle, but at least Jurgens likes to play with the standard philosophies of super-heroing.
Things move at a steady pace and the book only really has awkward spots in story flow during the Millenium crossover event, which is understandable, as several key issues are not included here (and it wasn’t the best crossover anyway.)
The art, likewise, is solid work. Having one artist lends consistency, but Jurgens is also a consummate professional. His style might not stand out on a shelf when compared to other comics of the era, but he has it down pat – and occasionally includes a beautifully rendered dramatic scene or little background details that bring it above the average “house style.” With him writing and illustrating, there may not have been too many awe inspiring moments, but there also were never any moments where my reading was interrupted by some terrible piece of dialogue or art – I breezed through the book with a dumb grin on my face the entire time.
The reprinting suffers from the usual problems associated with a black and white showcase: sometimes the characters just don’t stick out enough from the background or you feel like you miss some of the power of a composition without color. Plus one villain, the Rainbow Raider of course, has powers based entirely on color! Naturally, that story arc is a little hard to follow at times.
But that’s what’s you get for the super low price point. I can’t really complain. The inked linework is great to look at, with a quite a few names listed on this large book: Agustin Mas, Mike Decarlo, Bob Lappan, John Costanza, Gary Martin, and more. While some of the inkers in this volume do their work differently, none of them phoned it in.
It’s hard to judge a book that collects such a long run in one volume. But this one makes it easy by being of good quality the whole way through. It may not be of the same historical value as say, the showcase volume collecting the first Flash stories, but it’s a great book – and essential for anyone into the lighter side of DC, Jurgens, or our boy Booster.
It”s even a great place to start reading him if you’ve ever been interested. It was my introduction to him and I’m already a fan.
Totally recommended for DC fans – if you want to get the most out of 52, Rip Hunter plotlines, Justice League International, and even events like the Death Of Superman, it’s great to know Booster Gold. Before I was introduced to him properly, I always though he seemed kind of silly when I read through a crossover, but he really does deserve his screen time. Since the entire 25 issue original series is included here, it’s worth picking up.
You don’t need to do research to jump into this volume, but you might enjoy reading Superman: The Man Of Steel in order to see what Booster is riffing on – and they intersect in the Action Comics crossover here.
There are so many places you could go from this book. You may want to follow up with the Millennium crossover volume in order to make sense of the events at the end. Or you could jump right into Justice League International, which tells a bit of what happens to him next. Or you could head 20 years of publishing history down the line and continue at 52, which leads into Booster’s contemporary ongoing.