SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for Batman #44, by Tom King, Tony S. Daniel, John Livesay, Tomeu Morey and Clayton Cowles, on sale now.
When it comes to gifts -- whether they’re for a birthday, an anniversary, or even a certain Bat-Cat wedding -- it’s the thought that counts… Right? But what if that gift, as well-intentioned as it may be, turns out to be a curse instead? Well, if you’re Booster Gold, you do whatever you can to try and make things right, and hopefully without causing even more damage in the process.
As Batman #45 begins, it becomes immediately clear that things aren’t business as usual. For starters, we see Hal Jordan’s quintessential cockiness dialed up to 11 as he braggingly out-wills his ring’s failsafe and beats himself to a bloody pulp, much to the bewilderment (and partial amusement) of Booster Gold. And as Booster then proceeds to search for Batman, we learn that Hal isn’t the only one acting out of character.
While arguing with Skeets, Booster is suddenly shot in the back, and though his armor protects him from the bullet, it doesn’t dampen his shock when he realizes who the gunman is: Batman.
“Batman… I have to tell you something,” Booster says, as the Dark Knight tosses a grenade at him. “I got you a gift.” Before he can elaborate, though, the grenade goes off, sending Booster flying off the rooftop and into an alleyway.
After taking a moment to dust himself off, a Batrope descends from the rooftop and wraps around Booster’s neck like a noose, pulling him back into the Caped Crusader’s clutches. As Skeets quickly points out, though, “According to facial recognition this is not the Batman we’re looking for. This is Dick Grayson.”
Taken aback by his identity being discovered, Bat-Grayson draws his pistol and begins shooting at Booster, who flees the scene after deciding that, rather than Batman, he should seek out Bruce Wayne. When he finally finds crashes a party at Wayne Manor to find him, though, Bruce isn’t dancing with his bride-to-be, as one might expect; instead, he’s dancing with Martha Wayne – his mother.
After taking Bruce aside, Booster explains that the aforementioned “gift” – harkening back to Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ “For the Man Who Has Everything” – is that he went back in time and stopped Bruce’s parents from being murdered. His logic (or lack thereof) for doing this was for Bruce to see how much better his life turns out if history unfolds as it was intended to, rather than it does in this “what-if scenario.”
Unfortunately, Bruce doesn’t see things that way.
Even after realizing that deep down, he’s always known something about this alternate timeline didn’t feel quite right, Bruce refuses to allow Booster and Skeets to reverse what they’ve done. Instead, Bruce grabs a fire poker and smashes Skeets to pieces, trapping both himself and Booster in the alternate timeline.
“I’m going back to the party,” Bruce says, as he leaves Booster to mourn over Skeets’ dismantlement. “It’s my parents’ anniversary. I wouldn’t miss it for the world.”
Given that Bruce has some recollection of his true reality, it’s hard to imagine he’d give all that up without some sort of contingency plan. Perhaps, quite literally, he simply doesn’t want to miss his parents’ anniversary, knowing full well it’ll be the only time he can be there for it before returning to his own timeline. Then again, who knows just how much of a toll Booster’s “gift” took on Bruce’s mind, which – even for a man who dresses up as a bat – is already more damaged than the Caped Crusader would care to admit?
Even more puzzling is the fact that everything Booster has done for Bruce seems to fly in the face of the events of the recent "Booster Shot" arc in the pages of Action Comics. There, Booster played the role of a true time cop with a hardened stance when it comes to altering the past. Nevertheless, despite his determination to minimize Superman’s disruption on Krypton, Booster still goes out of his way to do essentially the exact same thing in Gotham for Bruce, and without his knowledge, no less.
Maybe, at least in Booster's eyes, currying favor with the Bat pays more dividends than placating the Man of Steel.