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).
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.