Me? I'm goin' to Disney World. Otherwise, I ain't goin'.
Let's talk about this week's comics, shall we?
RUNAWAYS #19: This comic is fun but sad. The title of this story? "Dead Means Dead." As comic book fans, we don't tend to believe that, do we? Dr. Doom/Superman/Phoenix/Bucky/Robin/Uncle Ben die...but in the revolving door mythology of the Marvel and DC Universes, more often than not, they're just away on a short life-challenged vacation. (Peter David even had a funny bit about it concerning Banshee in a recent X-Factor). We're used to that, but the Runaways aren't, and the death of one of their team hits them hard in one of the most affecting and personal issues of superhero comics dealing with death I've yet read. Even Leapfrog is called on to discuss the nature of death as the kids react to their loss. Rest assured: this is not twenty-two pages of the Runaways moping around and feeling sorry for themselves; there's a solid beginning of the next big adventure plotline and a dandy monsteriffic cliffhanger. But I've said it before and I'll say it again: how the Runaways react to their situations and circumstances make them the most realistic of a large bunch of superteens; this is simply one ofmaybe thebest-written and pitch-perfect portrayals of teens in superhero comics. Ever.
NEXTWAVE #7: This comic is fun. Look, I've told you enough times: buy Nextwave. If you're not going to pay attention to me, move along, buddy, there's nothing to see here. I hear and understand some of the criticisms: it's a one-joke premise, Dirk Anger runs thin after a while, I'm not believing the way Machine Man and Captain Marvel are being written. But you're denying yourself not only one of the most rollicking fun gonzo experiences in comics every montha caffeine-laden palatte-cleanser for oh-so-serious superhero adventurebut you're also denying yourself some of the funniest dialogue in modern superhero comics, including a week that's full of death's best reference and Best Line of the Week: "X-Men come back more than Jesus." To paraphrase the cover of Jimmy Olsen #141: Bully says: Don't ask! Just buy it!
MANHUNTER #25: This comic is fun. A little voice keeps whispering in my head: Buy Manhunter. Buy Manhunter. Buy Manhunter. I've been to several specialists and had a dozen CAT scans (well, actually I just rode back and forth through the X-ray machine at LaGuardia Airport several times) and all specialists agree: I'm not crazy. They also suggest: Buy Manhunter. So, in accordance with my weekly mission to Pick Up One New Comic Title I Haven't Been Reading, I bought Manhunter. And whatdaya know, it's a heckuva lotta fun. Great characterization, sharp dialogue, solid art, strong supporting characters, and a dandy of a last-page guest star: it's everything I love in fun comics, plus the best scene about the impracticalities of changing into your superhero costume I've seen since Christopher Reeve couldn't find a boxed-in phone booth! But if this is "Death Week," you're asking, where's the death? Quite simply: this was very nearly the last issue of Manhunter: it was cancelled, and like a last-minute cliffhanger where the hero cheats death, there's more to come: five issues starting in December. Isn't that the way it usually works in superhero comics: back from the dead at the last minute? I won't be ignoring the little voices in my head again: I will buy Manhunter, picking up the trades and back issues so I can get up to speed on Kate Spencer and company (although for a "final issue," #25 is remarkably accessible), and I will be standing in line outside my comic book shop ready to buy Manhunter #26 when it goes on sale on December. Don't make the same mistake I made: Buy Manhunter.
52 WEEK 15: This comic is fun but sad. Let me end this week's round-up with the big death: like his pal Ted Kord, Booster Gold is dead. C'mon, stop scolding me: no spoiler alert needed: it says it right up front on the cover. After several weeks of acting like a self-centered ass (and more painfully, a self-centered criminal ass), Booster went out the way a hero should (a death we the fans won't be completely up in arms about, the way DC treated Blue Beetle), and I sniffled more than a little bit at the last couple pages. Sure, it's comics. Sure, it's a time-travelling superhero. Sure, there are umpteen ways to undo this story, from resurrection to time travel to Church of Superboy to Wein's Law (hey, we didn't really see the body...). Skeets's reaction is heartbreaking: in the words of Roy Thomas, even a robot can cry. And I'll go on record right here and now: I no longer trust Supernova. Dude's got a secret, and I bet it's not a good one. He's up to something; he has his own agenda, and I ain't trusting him, he can't borrow my pogo stick, no way. But in the end, this is DC Comics, and I don't care what Mister Didio says, Booster Gold will be back somehow, you can bet on it. That doesn't make this issue any less sad, but the sadness doesn't make it any less fun: sacrifice and change is part of what makes superhero comics entertaining. In homage to the fun and joy I've gotten from Booster Gold and his adventures, from his self-titled series to Justice League, through the Superbuddies and 52, I award 52 WEEK 15 the most fun comic of the week.
Still, I think this story needs a coda, a closure, a goodbye. The Vertigo Universe doesn't seem to be part of the DC Universe anymore, but the realm of the Endless was never restricted to such mortal boundaries anyway. Like they say, if you want it done, sometimes you have to do it yourself. So I did. I hereby present a little bit of bullish creative fan-fiction about what happens between panels one and two on page twenty of 52 WEEK 15. Call it...
"I'm back, baby!" Booster Gold tossed back his head and smiled, and declared to the skies over Metropolis: "I am back!"
It felt good. It felt right. It felt...
There was a quiet soft snap somewhere above him, and he felt the rush of fire against his face, and the roar of the wind, and somewhere far below him, a robot cried his name, but it faded quickly, so quickly it might never have been there.
“Hullo, Michael. Why’d you do it?” asked a female voice.
Booster spun aroundaware for the first time that he was no longer on the deck of the submarine hovering over Metropolis. He wasn't floating, however: he was standing on nothing at all, but the nothing was solid beneath his feet, an invisible floor of grey mist. If that was surprising enough, then it was instantly surpassed by the woman who stood before him, smiling at him. She was dressed all in blackblack leather jacket over a black lace camisole top and black puffy skirt, shiny black skin-tight stockings down her shapely legs and scuffed black motorcycle boots on her feet. Her hair was even blacker than her clothes, a tangled yet artful mop that stuck out in all directions around her pale, pale, white as snow face, but her eyes were warm and violet. Around her neck she wore a fine filigree chain with a silver ankh pendant that dangled between her breasts and set off the silver colour against her pale, pale skin.
She was, Booster thought, quite possibly the second-most-beautiful woman he had ever seen.
“Why did I do what?” he asked her.
“Well, y’ know,” She smiled and spun on her heel playfully. “You were out. You were safe. You'd made your mark. You didn't have to prove yourself to anyone. You didn't have to prove yourself to Supernova, or the city. You'd done your best. You could have walked away, flown away. But you came back, and you let him live instead.” Her eyes twinkled. “I had a bet with my brother. He said you wouldn’t come back, wouldn’t do it, couldn’t do it, wouldn’t dream of doing such a thing. I was sure I could prove him wrong. Again.”
Booster shrugged. “I don’t know. I just felt I had to.” He hesitated. “J'onn once said...”
The woman in black said nothing, just waited for him to gather his words.
“J'onn once said...if you can't be a hero...be human.”
There was a long silence.
“Was I right?” Booster asked, expectantly. “Did I do the right thing?…for the first damn time in my life?”
“What do you think?” she asked.
Booster shrugged, and fell wordless again.
“Hey, cool googles,” the pale woman broke the silence with an enthusiastic grin. “Can I try them?”
“Sure,” Booster said, amused at her, much to his surprise, and peeling his goggles off his face, he handed them to the woman, who slipped them over her violet eyes and peered up at him with a sparkling smile.
“Way cool,” trilled the woman, squinting through the golden lenses. She regarded him thoughtfully. “Ready, Michael?”
“You aren’t at all what I expected.”
“I never am.”
“I sort of thought the skeleton guy in the robe was…”
“Oh, him.” She clicked her tongue and tilted her head in amusement. “Not the real thing at all, you know.” She ran her free hand through her tousled raven hair and regarded him carefully, a smile line creasing through the curlicue tattoo below her right eye, shining through the golden goggles. “It's me who turns the last page in the story every week; it's me who closes the cover and puts the book away in a bag.” She took his hand and inclined her head towards the far grey horizon. “Ready?”
“C’mon. I’ll walk with you.”
He hesitated. “Will Ted be there?”
She smiled. “Come and see.”
So he did.
Rest in peace