Booster Gold #21

Once again, Booster Gold is sent time-tripping under the orders of Rip Hunter. This time the adventure takes us to the Batcave, Booster! Batman was the one hero whom Booster trusted to know Booster's true mission. One problem with that though: Batman's dead. Batman -- Bruce Wayne -- had photographic evidence of Booster's mission, as it crossed paths with the fate of Barbara Gordon. Rip has sent Booster to secure those photos. In doing so, Booster meets the new Batman and either deduces, or remembers, that this Batman is Dick Grayson.

From there, Jurgens' story takes wing. Jurgens delivers an issue that is perfectly accessible for new readers, without brow-beating those dedicated readers who have spent a little more time with Booster Gold. This issue is the first of a new storyline, which in and of itself would be welcoming to new readers, but when you throw Batman on the cover -- especially during the Bat-craziness going on currently in the DCU -- you can expect an extra reader or two to take a look inside.

Jurgens art should hook those potential new readers. A traditionalist in panel layouts, Jurgens puts his efforts into drawing solidly dynamic figures and interesting compositions within the panels. The expressions on the faces Jurgens draws carry the story, accentuating the script, rather than having the script foisted upon them. Of course, it probably doesn't hurt any that Jurgens knows the writer pretty well.

Hi-Fi is an unsung hero in this title, having colored the entirety of the series to this point. Continuously pressed for new ways to render "time anomalies" and "effects," Hi-Fi has risen to the challenge every time. Additionally, Booster's costume has remained a semi-metallic costume rather than a garish, rejected circus clown get-up.

At one point in this issue, Booster recalls Jaime Reyes transformation into the current Blue Beetle. I found this to be an interesting tip of the hat from Jurgens to his new subleasee, Blue Beetle, whose adventures in this issue are rendered by Matthew Sturges and Mike Norton. Norton is inked by Rapmund here, and Cipriano also sticks around for the lettering.

Sturges wastes no time and fewer pages (re-) introducing Jaime Reyes and his pals, Paco and Brenda. Four panels in, you know who everyone is, even is you've never touched a Blue Beetle comic before now. If you haven't read those comics before, the entire run of the title starring Jaime Reyes is available in TPB, ask your retailer or librarian!

Sturges writes an adventure that seems like it fell from the pages of comics from yesteryear: Blue Beetle fighting a giant robot in the heart of El Paso! Of course, the fight is anything except typical, and we get to see quite a bit of Beetle in action, as well as interacting with his friends.

Norton brings a bouncy style to the title, floating somewhere between Paul Pelletier and Tom Grummett, yet pressing forward in his own manner, with his own sensibilities. There is collateral damage in the panels Norton draws, as displayed in the detail of the rubble created by Beetle's tussle with THINKO! (the giant robot).

The one-two punch of great writing, great art and enjoyable characters make this book a throwback to a brighter, happier time in comics, like when "Firestorm" was the backup tale in the pages of "The Flash." Not only were both stories well-written and well-drawn, both stories were stories I would have paid for individually. The fact that I got them both in under one cover was just an added bonus -- just like this issue. That cover, however, needs a little work. Blue Beetle is billed as a "Second Feature," but his presence on the cover is only slightly larger than the DC bullet. That's not going to help draw Blue Beetle fans in if they somehow missed the memo that Blue Beetle now is a "co-feature" in "Booster Gold."

Individually, this issue of "Booster Gold" would have gotten 3.5 stars, but with the addition of "Blue Beetle" -- and a good Beetle tale at that -- this issue jumps a full star. Even though this issue clocked in at $3.99, it is well worth the price. After all, the "Blue Beetle" segment is essentially half a comic, clocking in at ten pages to the twenty pages dedicated to the primary feature. Summer reading is here, and with DC pumping these "Second Features" into some good books, you might want to think about upping the SPF in that sunscreen before hitting the hammock. After all, you'll be there a little longer enjoying some more good reading if this issue is any indication of what we can expect!

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