Thursday, August 17, 2006

Week 15: Hapax Legomenon

"Ballostro" appears to be a hapax legomenon. "Protocrustacean" isn't quite one, but it's close. The same goes for "frigly," which seems to be a euphemism for a euphemism; as the ad a few pages later puts it, whudafxup with that? Or perhaps Sanjay means "fragly." Come to think of it, "outshined" probably would have a much lower public profile without Soundgarden.

A little more seriously: Ballostro is a use-once-and-destroy sort of menace, and a newly invented character (or thing-from-another-world) is curious in the context of a project like 52 that's supposed to map the DC universe. It's sometimes maddening for new readers to keep running into ancient bits of continuity that they're "supposed to" know about to get what's going on; conversely, it's obviously a pleasure for experienced superhero readers to hit some reference to some long-ago story and think "oh, yeah: that one!" Even so, it's a mixed pleasure: comics that drink too deeply from the pulpy rivers of memory risk becoming nostalgia projects. I like the buzz of recognition, but I also like the shock of newness--when it's actually surprising. Which is another way of saying that Ballostro would've been a lot more effective if it were either a familiar concept or something worthy of repeated use: either way, there'd be more depth and history to it than "tentacle thingy." (And if somebody wants to point me at an Aquaman story where it appeared before, I will not only post the reference here, but leave this paragraph up as a badge of shame.)

What did work in this issue is the time-travel-paradox formula that never gets old--the one where you go into the past and change the future. That seems to be the deal with Booster: the information he's been getting from Skeets is about known historical disasters that he's gone on to prevent, and I bet a cascade of those could break the future something fierce. (What does it say about DC cosmology, though, that denying the documented truth of predestination "breaks time"? You could get yourself tied up into theological knots in that one in a hurry.) This time, of course, we see him actually causing the things he's declined to prevent (the carjacking and the blackout). And I see why the 52 writers have been saying they're enjoying writing the Booster scenes so much: he really is a petulant brat--the bitterness that comes off that first page is palpable--and it has to be fun to write the guy who always does the right thing for the wrong reasons.

Like I said, there are plenty of possibilities for this sort of plot--my favorite lately was this awesomely hilarious story (which has nothing to do with its cover), in which our heroes have to go back in time and make sure Abraham Lincoln gets assassinated on schedule. Another version of it you occasionally see is the one where the hero ends up fighting another version of himself. It's a decent assumption to make here--Supernova certainly seems to have it in for Booster in a personal way, not to mention that he's talking about "a genuine crisis." And either he's got some pretty advanced light/illusion powers or he's got teleportation powers ("I zapped it away"--yeah? where? and how did it get to midtown anyway?), but I'm starting to suspect the former. In which case, the monster may have been a bit of a setup anyway.

Also, I'm a little slow sometimes, but I think I'm now going to have to surrender to the theory everybody's been bringing up except me, about the Booster of 52 not being the same one who went home to the future during The OMAC Project. The evidence? Note the cybernetic patch the artists are careful to show us under the torn-away bit of Booster's right sleeve, before and after he goes boom. Note also that Booster lost his right arm hereabouts, got a cybernetic arm, and then later on made a deal with Monarch, in the course of which he uttered this deathless line, developed saliva strand syndrome, and got his arm grown back (in addition to turning into some kind of tentacle-monster--hmm). It looks like that's the time-period of the Booster we're dealing with--and it's also worth noting that we have yet another character who's come back from the dead here: Booster flatlined in this Waid-written issue, shortly after losing his arm.

(As a side note, does there seem to be a little motif of circles and rings in this series? Ralph's ring, the ring with the jailers' keys, Green Lantern's rings, the circles around the 52s on Rip Hunter's board...)

A solid origin for Steel--it'd have been nice to know a bit more about his armor, but maybe we aren't going to be seeing that any more now that he's Colossus instead of Iron Man. (We only get one panel of Silver Surfer Irons, fighting random robots, which maybe we'll actually see sometime.) It also appears that 52 is one of his "essential storylines"; perhaps it should get a chance to be demonstrably essential for him first? Curious that Luthor thought that powering up John Henry would mean "the end of Steel"; you'd think he'd just have poisoned him or something instead of making him stronger and "virtually indestructable" (sic).

More notes:

Pg. 1: I'd love to know what the "...als clause" in the contract is; it's also interesting to see that Kyle Rayner's lookalike signed the letter herself. Too bad that Booster's about to short out his special anti-perspective laptop. And does anyone want to suggest what "...EAK THUM..." is?

Pg. 2: Where did all of Booster's money go? And what's he doing living in the East Hope Hotel and eating out of a can Rorschach-style, anyway? ("Shorp. Lep.") He's still got at least two active endorsement deals, judging from his outfit.

Pg. 3: Ballostro's one of those great Cthulhu/Jim Woodring monsters, I see, with a color scheme a bit like the beastie from the end of Watchmen.

Pg. 4: "More questions." Dogs know it!

Pg. 7: I love those old-fashioned rings of old-fashioned keys that open both cell doors and handcuffs. And who's holding it in the final panel?

Pg. 8: Googling "atlantis aquaman" yields 185,000 hits, so Sanjay's Google-fu is very strong.

Pg. 9: Oh no! It's the Plummeting Head of Kal-L! Or is this a different statue from the one in #1?

Pg. 10: You know, if Booster really wanted to follow in Superman's path, he could've copped this pose. Failing that, there's always this pose. As long as he doesn't use Miracleman's car-throwing technique from this issue, though, everything's cool...

Pg. 16: Much as I like the theory that Supernova is the gentleman on the right, the speech pattterns don't fit.

Pg. 17: If you Micks Liquors, you're just going to get sick.

Pg. 19: Might there be some kind of problem with, I don't know, radioactive fallout? Note Clark's first-person plural... he's allied with Supernova, apparently.

Pg. 20: Flesh stripped away, bones and costume intact--even though the costume got ripped seven pages earlier. Something's amiss here.

Unrelatedly: some dude from Publishers Weekly Comics Week who's been hanging out with my family a lot interviewed me about 52 Pickup a few days ago. He says to remind everyone that subscriptions to PW Comics Week are free.


At 6:00 AM, Blogger spirit of louis st. said...

Early on in the Booster Gold series Skeets had to correct Booster's use of colloquialisms so "head up" is a nice callback. Over at Wizard they point out that Booster is responsible for Skeets' earlier predictions of a car jacking and black out.

At 6:51 AM, Blogger Jamie Ott said...

Well, it looks like they actually did it...killed off 'Booster'.

Douglas, I'm with you on the whole charred corpse/pristine costume concept. Over the years, Booster has channeled energy through his force field, so I'm not exactly buying this death.

And the biggest thing? We saw all of this happen from the crowd's perspective, not Booster's. Usually, when they kill off a major character of a series, there's an internal monologue of some type. There's nothing here.

It's quite possible that 'nova is our Michael. There are some costume design choices that are awfully similiar between Booster and 'nova. Also, he was awfully critical of this Booster...for doing something Booster had never done before, stage rescues.

And then there's Kent....he seems to REALLY trust 'nova. He and Booster have a long history, first clashing over different ideologies, then working together in the JL. Remember, most of the JLI folks were with Supes when he took on Doomsday and Booster was seriously injured taking a hit for Superman.

I still think the Booster that 'died' will be back, whichever timeline he is from. However, I'm concerned about his mental state if/when he does reappear.

As each issue progresses, I am becoming convinced that Vic Sage is not going to make it out of Khandaq. There were even more heavyhanded use of foreshadowing in this issue.

And does anyone else now hear Billy West's voice in their head when Skeets speaks? Or am I alone in this?


At 8:08 AM, Blogger Michael Nicolai said...

I agree about Supernova being Booster. As I was reading, I got the impression that Suprernova was the Booster that left during OMAC. I can't put my finger on it, it's just a gut feeling. Maybe he got the idea from J'onn J'onzz' stint as "Bloodwynd" (yikes what a bad 90's name!). I also agree on the Billy West thing, I also hear him when I read a mad scientist/old proffessor type.

From what I've read so far (and pieced together so far from your expert analysis), 52 is a book of changes, of passing the torch to a new generation. Like the shifts from Golden Age to Silver Age to... whatever comes after Silver age. Post-Crisis to "New Earth". Steel also seems to be in some sort of danger from his new powers last issue. Patches of rust? Seeing a doctor? Constructing a battle suit for your neice out of remorse?

At 8:55 AM, Blogger Squashua said...

I'm still a little shocked that 25th Century Booster knew about, let alone how and when to use, the phrase a flash in the pan.

At 9:36 AM, Blogger Gordon said...

I've said this elsewhere (and this is sheer speculation), but for some reason, I suspect that John Henry will be the Commander Steel of the "new" JSA.

I could be wrong, however....

At 9:40 AM, Blogger Jeff R. said...

This may be a case of me being more clever than the writers, but...

I don't think that there are alternate timeline boosters going on here, Rather, I think that Booster has orchestrated everything that's happened to him lately: though he had plenty of endorsement money, he stopped payment on Manthrax's check, starting his 'decline'...

Because it all started after the trip to Hunter's lab. Which we haven't seen Booster follow up on in any way. Because after that trip, Booster knows that Skeets is evil/insane/compromised by Cosmic-52/whatever. So the entire point of the whole Supernova charade would be to ditch Skeets and be able to observe what it does after Booster's gone. Presumably he also managed to pick up some illusion and/or teleportation gear in the lab to help with the new identity....

At 9:57 AM, Blogger raphaeladidas said...

I don't think that John Henry is the new Commander Steel considering that the Commander is obviously white and the fact that it's been said that none of the featured characters would appear outside of 52 until the series is over.

At 9:57 AM, Blogger Brian Hibbs said...

MORals clause, I think


At 12:35 PM, Blogger Rick said...

whudafxup with that indeed. And Jamie--I'm with you on Billy West's voice/Skeets--glad it's not just me!

At 12:37 PM, Blogger Emmet Matheson said...

As mentioned, the sub-clinging-tentacled beast bears a striking resemblence to Ozymandia's world-saver. Seeing how drastically its appearance changed the apparently-plotted course of events--i.e. Booster gets a hero's death rather than continues his descent into ignomy--that can't be a coincidence.
And more heavy-handed foreshadowing for poor ol' Charlie/Vic (anyone else remember the OTHER Green Lantern of Earth, Charlie Vickers? I think he looked just like Hal Jordan, only he had freckles, and eventually got a unique costume).

At 1:27 PM, Blogger Squashua said...

I think it was Charlie Vicker, no 's'. Wasn't he killed by Grayven or something? I think it's coincidence.

At 6:44 PM, Blogger Squashua said...

Oh, and by the way, please check out the dates referred to in the newspaper on the first page. Notice the Luthor-centric article mentions discovery of the Earth-3 Alexander Luthor body "earlier this week". Now, certainly this could be seen as Booster viewing an older news post on a website, but anything is possible if TIME IS BROKEN.

At 6:42 AM, Blogger Jamie Ott said...


I noticed the column about Luthor right off the bat in my first read through. I thought it was odd but I knew that it had to be there on purpose.

Then it hit me, the whole article is about a character from an alternate reality and how that discovery cleared Luthor's 'good' name. So put me down on board for the Supernova as the original Booster theory...

I really didn't want to buy into it but there are a lot of things that bugged me about this Booster since his reappearance during IC. The first being the reappearance of Skeets. Yes, I realize that Skeets is a robot but he's an AI with a real personality and I don't think that he could just be recreated during a trip to the future.

The second is the costume. Booster's had a lot of costume tweaks over the years but if you look closely at 52 #1 you see Booster in the shards. Obviously, it's an important clue (to the whole series) but the thing that always struck me as odd was that they chose to portray him in his original costume (high collar and all).

And I've already mentioned the costume similarities between Supernova and Booster.

The third thing has been commented on ad nauseum, the whole personality shift back to what how he was when he first appeared. While I enjoyed his stories in 52, it just didn't jive with me. Too much character regression without any real justification.

And then when you read DiDio's comments on Newsarama about Booster's story ending, it makes you wonder. Even though I hate his arrogant attitude, his comments led me to believe that we have not seen the last of Michael Jon Carter.

And one comment about the art in this issue. For the most part, I have been happy with the art here but upon closer inspection, there were a lot of inconsistencies in Moll's art this issue, such as Booster's disappearing/reappearing blaster's on his gloves. In a series that relies on so many visual clues, consistency is extremely important.


At 7:15 AM, Blogger Squashua said...

There have been quite a few inconsistencies and seeming mistakes throughout the series, which is surprising when one can count multiple editors. There's Adam Strange's reappearing eyes, the extra Tomaz word balloons, Ralph's re-appearing ring, the article text, Booster's bands, the serpent lady with the disappearing tattoo and jewelry, and others I haven't caught. There are also unaddressed issues such as the bystander that was shot from a ricoched(sp?) bullet bouncing off of Steel.

Obviously some, if not all, of these issues can be chalked up to this being a story about "time fluctuations" and are therefore acceptable. The thing is that with such a high profile comic, even if it's being produced at such a high rate of speed, you'd think these sorts of items would get caught, that is, unless they are deliberate.

At 7:21 AM, Blogger Filby said...

"Note the cybernetic patch the artists are careful to show us under the torn-away bit of Booster's right sleeve, before and after he goes boom."

Are you sure that it's not just the wiring in his suit?

At 1:22 PM, Blogger J.A.K said...

I'm taking it as read that Booster's scenes are Morrison's - that's the attribution most commonly given. We all know Morrison is a mad genius, and likes the use of metaphor and mythology. From this, and this issue, I draw an obvious conclusion:

[This version of ]Booster Gold is Jesus Christ/the Messiah!

He came [from the future] to save us [in Infinite Crisis], entered the big city [Jerusalem/Metropolis] and was cheered as he did, then, on the seventh week, was hated and jeered - everyone hated him. Now, here, he dies saving everyone, after possibly being betrayed [if the "Evil Skeets" theory is correct].

It's a bit of a stretch, I know, but I think it's precisely the sort of thing Morrison might do. If I'm right, he'll return three weeks or days later. Of course this might be crazy, but there's always a chance...

At 1:49 PM, Blogger Dave Hughes said...

It's really amusing that the interviewer you linked to at the bottom essentially asked you the same question four times.

At 3:27 PM, Blogger Duke said...

On the 52 questions about 52 with editor Steve Wacker over on Newsarama, I had asked if it was a coincidence that Supernova's icon matched the logo of the Galactic Broadcasting System (GBS).

Of course, I had no idea if there was any such match. I more or less made it up to see if I could trick Wacker into revealing something. Well, Steve said noticing the supposed match was a "good catch."

As we know, Morgan Edge led both GBS and, in original continuity, Intergang.

So, while I too and thinking Supernova is some alternate timeline Booster, we do seem to have confirmation that he also may have some connection to Intergang.

The other answer that I think is worth noting is Wacker's responce to my question of whether Dr. Tyme stole 52 consecutive seconds, or 52 seperate moments. There was not, I don't think, a real clear answer of which way it went, but those 52 seconds do promise to be vitally important later on in the series.

At 9:36 AM, Blogger Andy Bayer said...

Congratulations on being featured on G4 TV's "The Feed".

At 12:26 PM, Blogger Eric Houston said...

God, I love Charlie Vicker.

Last I saw, Charlie Vicker was in an issue of Green Lantern Corps Quarterly (#3 or 4, I think).

He was stranded on an alien planet populated by non-humanoids, his ring de-powered by the Gaurdians for failing to return to Oa for Sinestro's trial as he was too busy helping that planet through a disasterous war.

At 8:27 PM, Blogger BradyDale said...

You know, this is my first time to your blog, and I basically hunted it down because I felt the need to say it:

this was the worst damn issue of this series so far. Yech! yech! yech!!!

God. How awful. I agree with every point you made about how bad it was.

Why the hell is Mary Marvel Isis's confidant? She doesn't have any other friends?

And Black Adam seriously took no note of a siege cannon going off during his wedding?

This issue sucked. Sucked. Sucked. Sucked. It was just annoying.


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