Sunday, July 10, 2011

TWT Checks out The Sixth Gun from Oni Press

I’ve recently taken to listening to a number of podcasts on my way home from work as a way of unwinding and casting away the cares of the day. It’s working well! One of the other upshots of this is that that I’m being exposed to titles I wasn’t aware of and finding some great new reading material as a result.

One of the podcasts I really enjoy is iFanboy - in fact they have two - iFanboy’s Pick of the Week, which is a weekly overview of comic news and reviews, and then iFanboy Don’t Miss, which is an in-depth interview with one creator. It was on an episode of Don’t Miss that I was “introduced” to Cullen Bunn and his Oni Press title The Sixth Gun, which has two trade paperback volumes out to date. I’m going to have a look at the first volume, The Sixth Gun Book One: Cold Dead Fingers, this evening.

I wouldn’t count either horror or western as a favourite genre, but the mixture of the two sounded so strange I thought this was worth checking out. I’m very glad I did. This is a compelling story with deep, interesting characters and fantastic art by Brian Hurtt. It has all the makings of a classic saga.

Our protagonists, Drake Sinclair and Becky

The plot centers around six mystical guns which each possess a unique power. Each is “bonded” to their owner, and the only way to disconnect the owner and gun is the owner’s death. The next person to touch the gun becomes the new bonded owner. The guns can do things like cause a fiery death, give the owner eternal youth, and use the spirits or forms of those it has killed as deadly weapons. Not the kind of magic you’d want to come up against.

The guns belonged for quite some time to the story’s villain, General Oleander Beford Hume, and his band of bad guys and girl - Hume’s wife, Missy. As the story opens, Missy and Hume’s men are in the process of resurrecting Hume, and are intent on retrieving Hume’s gun from its current owner, an ill and elderly man being cared for by his step-daughter, Becky, who unintentionally becomes the owner of the gun when her step-father is killed and through the gun gains the ability to see flashes of the future.

The only thing standing in the way of Becky and the Humes is Drake Sinclair, the protagonist of the story. I won’t say “hero”, as Sinclair has a shady past and unclear motives. He seems to have a strong moral center, but we don’t really learn what is driving him, and it’s clear that he has secrets that will be revealed as the series progresses. Sinclair and his offsider, Billjohn, join with Becky on a journey driven by her visions, and as they progress, the guns begin changing hands.

The terrifying General Hume and his wife, Missy.

There are some fantastic supernatural scenes and ideas in this book which really make it earn its horror tag. Things like the Gallows Tree, a group of restless spirits from whom Sinclair seeks guidance, typify the kind of ideas and events that burn themselves into your mind as you read this book.

According to iFanboy’s interview with Bunn, this first arc was written as a story that could stand along or be continued. There are some resolutions by the end of the trade, but there is very little in the way of big answers in this volume, and I’m glad that Bunn and Hurtt have been able to continue to explore the world they’ve created, but . We go back as far as Hume’s discovery of the guns and an exploration of Sinclair’s relationship with the Humes, but the origin of the guns themselves, their true meaning and the motivations of most of the main characters are yet to be understood.

All of this is accompanied by great art from Brian Hurtt. Hurtt  and Bunn have worked together before, most notably on The Damned, also from Oni Press. Hurtt has created a unique world within The Sixth Gun and has given its characters and places a distinct, idiosyncratic look. There is a cartoonish element to his art, which you might think would dilute the horror aspect of the tale, but Hurtt actually uses it to accentuate the dark and scary side of The Sixth Gun world. I particularly love the way he draws the General and Mrs Hume - it’s when they are on panel that his art truly imbues the terror the script intends. Hurtt is a true artistic talent.

The "Gallows Tree" is a great example of the horror aspects of The Sixth Gun
One of the things that I really enjoy about independent comics is the sense that anything could happen - indie creators can play with their characters and plots with a freedom that mainstream characters can only dream of. This is certainly the case here - the deaths come thick and fast, and no one is exempt. As the story progresses, it’s easy to see how the changing ownership of the guns could lead to significant cast changes as the big picture of the mystery unfolds. I can’t wait to see what happens!

All up, that’s a definite two thumbs up for The Sixth Gun. If you love either western or supernatural themes, this is definitely for you, but if those themes aren’t really your thing, don’t be put off. This is a very satisfying read, and I’m very much looking to the next volume, The Sixth Gun Book 2: Crossroads, which has just been released.

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Happy reading!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

TWT Checks out Van Lente and Pak's new Alpha Flight!

Phil Jiminez is providing stunning covers for the series
While I work on finishing the next trade I’ll be reviewing, I thought I’d share some thoughts on one of the few monthly comics I’m currently picking up - Marvel’s new take on ALPHA FLIGHT.
I bought and read John Byrne’s original run on ALPHA FLIGHT back when it was first published, and have always had a very soft spot in my heart for these characters. As brilliant as Byrne was, I have always thought he did the book a bit of disservice by dismantling the team too quickly through various deaths, departures and changes. I was happy to see that CHAOS WAR: ALPHA FLIGHT #1 (one-shot) was revisiting the original team, many of whom were long dead, and was surprised by the fact that it ended with the resurrected characters returning to the land of the living. It also left them in a bit of limbo until Fred Van Lente and Greg Pak were announced as writing a new series for the team.
The returned team laps up the Canadian limelight - while it lasts.

Right up front, let me say that if you haven’t picked up Issues #0.1 and #1, you need to buy them now! This book should be very enjoyable to readers new to Alpha Flight, but will also be quite rewarding to avid fans. Van Lente and Pak have accomplished a great “jumping on point” without alienating those who know the characters well - quite a feat!

When Issue #0.1 opens, we’ve jumped forward from the end of Chaos War to a time when the team has been reestablished within Department H and the characters have started to reestablish their lives. I think starting with action instead of protracted exposition was a great move. It keeps the pace brisk from the beginning. We aren’t left confused as we do get glimpses of what the characters are up to in their own lives as the action progresses. There is a great deal packed in to the first two issues, and it’s a nice balance of action and character.  I liked the fact that they felt like decent reads instead of something you flicked through too quickly. It’s well written stuff.

The approaches to the characters are very faithful, but with some new dimensions. I especially like Van Lente and Pak's take on Marrina. She's been through a great deal in her life, so while her more agressive personality is new, it's also an understandable evolution of the character. Gone is the demure and naive junior member of the team, and in her place is a strong, aggressive and sometimes volatile young woman. She’s also had a redesign which looks fantastic. The “new” Marrina is certainly not going to be a wallflower on this team - in fact she may well be the breakout star! I do hope that we see her connections with Namor addressed at some point - after all, the last time they met, he was forced to kill her.....
Van Lente and Pak's take on Marrina is a highlight of the series so far. 
The one thing that has made me sigh a little so far is an very early reference to Aurora's mental stability. It's an important part of Jeanne-Marie's character, but it's been SO done. I hope we get to see her do some different things in this new series.

The fate of one of the team’s most popular characters, Eugene “Puck” Judd, remains unknown at present, but I have no doubt this will be explored shortly. Van Lente has also hinted on Twitter that Shaman’s daughter, Elizabeth “Talisman” Twoyoungmen, will also be seen. I’m very excited about that, as Talisman was always a favourite of mine.

Ben Oliver provided the pencils for #0.1, while Dale Eaglesham is on interior art duties for the limited series with Phil Jiminez on covers. I’m a fan of both artists, so that’s a win / win. I do find Eaglesham’s facial expression and conveyance of emotion a bit lacking at times, and would love to see this improve. Jiminez seems to be channeling Byrne on his covers, which are stunningly beautiful.
Northstar and Aurora revisit some familiar territory.
I won’t go into further detail now as I’m sure I’ll end up reviewing this when it’s collected. At present, this series is limited to eight issues. I sincerely hope it gets the reception it deserves and becomes an ongoing. If you agree, please spread the word by linking this review around the interwebs!

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Happy reading!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

TWT Checks out Kirkman's The Astounding Wolf-Man

I’m a big fan of Robert Kirkman. His work on The Walking Dead and Invincible is sure to be some of the most memorable of the current comics era. As such, I’m always happy to try any book he writes. For some reason, I’d never gotten around to reading The Astounding Wolf-Man, an Image Comics series which ended its 25 issue run last year, so I decided to pick up the first trade of the series and give it a whirl.

The basic story of Astounding Wolf-Man is this: Gary Hampton is a CEO and family man whose life is changed forever when he is attacked by a wolf on a family holiday. Lo and behold, the wolf was actually a werewolf, and Gary is transformed. Once he works out what he is, and realises he has great power, he decides to try to use it for good under the guidance of a seemingly friendly vampire named Zechariah. Meanwhile, his family struggle to come to terms with what he’s become, which is made harder when their lives are thrown into chaos by Gary being thrown out of his own company.

Bummer of a holiday, Gary!

If that sounds like a rather traditional set-up, it is. In fact, the first issue and a bit had me wondering whether or not Kirkman’s trademark plot twists were ever going to appear in the series, or if Astounding Wolf-Man was just an attempt a straightforward superhero fare. While the first of the kind of twists I’ve come to expect from Kirkman takes a little bit longer than I would have liked to appear, when it does you realise that you’re holding a great story in your hands. Without spoiling anything for those who might decide to pick this up, Gary discovers something unexpected about his transformation a bit later in the piece, and it has some rather major consequences that reverberate throughout the rest of the story. It’s this event that makes it clear that this is the kind of story where anything can happen and nothing should be taken for granted.

One thing that Kirkman does consistently well is to weave action with the personal challenges of his characters. There are big adjustments for Gary and his family to make, and the story throws more at them as it progresses. Gary’s relationship with his wife, Rebecca, is tested, and his daughter, Chloe, reacts in a very typical teenage fashion to the changes in her life and family circumstances. There’s a bit of an Animal Man quality to Gary’s life and story, the balancing of heroing with normal life, albeit with some Kirkman twists.

Wolf-Man uses Invincible's Tailor!

Kirkman quickly builds a world around Wolf-Man. His relationship with Zechariah has a quieter, personal element to it as well as a mentor / trainee relationship, and it is often strained by Gary learning things that Zechariah has been holding back with him. We aren’t meant to know whether or not Zechariah is actually trustworthy or not, and I expect that thread will continue to be developed throughout the series. We meet other heroes as well in the form of a team called The Actioneers, who become entangled with Wolf-Man’s story on a few levels. My favourite team member, Mecha-Maid, is a robot who seems to have a secret identity as a human mother and child. I hope we see more of this to fully understand.

Another Kirkman trademark apparent here is his use of wacky villains that often pop-up suddenly with no back story. There are a few here that remind me very much of similar riffs from Invincible, but the reactions and outcomes are quite different in this series. Kirkman is very skilled at weaving these seemingly throw-away characters into his story in meaningful ways, and I have no doubt we’ll see some, if not all, of the villains introduced here further down the road.

Domestic issues have a different dimension when werewolves are involved

The art for this series is provided by Jason Howard, a relative newcomer who drew the entire Astounding Wolf-Man series is and now working on the very fun Super Dinosaur with Kirkman. He has a style that works very well with Kirkman’s stories. His design for Wolf-Man is fabulous, and as Kirkman notes in opening notes of the trade, he draws fur very well. He also has a great deal of fun with all the various supporting characters Kirkman throws into the mix. His style is somewhat animated in its feel - in fact if you sampled random panels you might think you were reading Invincible, but the overall tone of the book is much darker, befitting of a story starring a werewolf and a vampire. Howard is on full art duties here as penciller, inker and colorist, and he fulfills all of these roles very ably, bringing a consistent style and look to the book.

Can Vampire Zechariah really be trusted?

While there’s a lot of positives to say about the art, it also provides the only shortcoming of the book in my view. Howard’s human characters don’t display a great deal of emotion, and that’s a challenge in a book that contains a fair bit of interpersonal drama. Howard’s style in drawing Gary (in his non-wolf state) and his family is rather reminiscent of the Sally Forth comic strip, and this makes them a tad difficult to engage with as people. We see enough of Gary in different circumstances to come to care about him as our protagonist, but I can’t say that I particularly understood or cared about Rebecca or Chloe by the end of the volume, and it seemed to me it was mainly due to a lack of emotional depth in the way they were drawn. Some of the scenes in the story, particularly between Gary and Rebecca, are fairly subtle in terms of the emotions Kirkman implies in the writing, but the art doesn’t always back this up to enable the story to pack the intended punch. It’s not a fatal flaw, but a bit of a drawback. Ryan Ottley has certainly proven on Invincible that one can convey a great deal of pathos through a somewhat cartoonish style, so it certainly can be done and done well.

Despite that particular criticism, this is still vintage Kirkman, and in his own inimitable style the volume ends by turning everything in its head, leaving you with no idea as to where the story is going to go from there. One of the things I love about indie comics is their willingness to muck with the status quo and expect their readers to come along for the ride. It’s the kind of risk-taking that mainstream comics don’t engage enough in, and they are the poorer for it. Sure, it can be jarring to see major characters suddenly dispatched or changed fundamentally by certain events, but ultimately the stories are much more rewarding when you know that someone isn’t gong to come along and press the “reset” button - it makes it much more meaningful.

The Actioneers in Action - Mecha-Maid is my favourite - she's the robot with the mop for hair

The wrap-up: while I can’t imagine The Astounding Wolf-Man becoming my favourite Robert Kirkman series, it’s definitely worth reading and owning. Jason Howard certainly has fantastic skills as an artist, but I’m hoping to see his emotional range grow as the series progresses. A slowish starting but very solid first volume that definitely has me wanting to read more.

What next? If you want to read The Astounding Wolf-Man, Volume One, buy it at Amazon and support TWT!

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Happy reading!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

TWT Checks Out Taskmaster: Unthinkable

I know I promised a review of John Byrne’s She-Hulk collected in trade, but I’ve been sidetracked by something else, so she’s going to have to wait a post or two. Sorry, Shulkie!

The story of how I came to buy and read Marvel’s Taskmaster: Unthinkable in trade is a funny one. Readers who know me from my other blogging gig at Action Figure Blues will know that I’m quite a fan of Bowen Designs’ Marvel Statue line. Randy Bowen recently released some initial designs for a Taskmaster Statue which looks completely stunning, and it sparked my interest in the character. When I saw Taskmaster: Unthinkable available at the Book Depository, I decided to pick it up and have a look. I’m very glad I did!

Taskmaster was introduced in Avengers #195 back in 1980, and since then has played various roles in the Marvel Universe. His power is “photographic reflexes”, the ability to mimic any skill or action after observing it once. He can draw upon the physical skills of anyone he’s fought or seen fighting, and can develop other skills from one observation, such as learning to land an airplane by watching a video of someone else doing it, as he accomplishes in this story. Pretty handy ability!

From various acts of general villainy, Taskmaster moved on to be a trainer for hire for both bad and good guys, a love / hate relationship with Deadpool, and most recently, a significant role in the Avengers: Initiative series as an instructor. Obviously he’d gained enough traction as a character to be allocated his own mini-series, and the character has well and truly been done justice in this four issue collection written by Fred Van Lente and drawn by Jefte Palo.

The basic plot of the story is this: Taskmaster is falsely accused of leaking information about the underworld to Steve Rogers and the “good” guys, and as a result a giant bounty is placed on his head by The Org, a mysterious criminal organisation that has been directing Taskmaster’s work. This leads pretty much every bad guy organisation in the Marvel Universe to take up the challenge of capturing Taskmaster’s scalp, and soon he has the likes of AIM, HYDRA, the Secret Empire, ULTIMATUM, the Cyber Ninjas, the Legions of the Living Lightning and several others, including some Van Lente created for this series, doing their best to take him out.

At the same time, we learn that Taskmaster’s massive store of skills has “deleted” his personal memory (read the book for a more complicated explanation), and in fact he no longer knows who he is and doesn’t retain memories of people or places from one task to the next. He goes back to a special point to try to regain his memory, which he describes as a “room” in his “memory palace”, the Ambrosia Diner, and when the hordes attack to try to collect the bounty on his head, the waitress he’d been exchanging some banter with, Mercedes Merced, becomes embroiled in his troubles and ends up along for the ride when The Org adds her to the bounty.

Without giving away the major twists of the story, what follows is the revelation of Taskmaster’s true origin, which seems to render his original origin as told way back in Avengers #196 null and void. I don’t see this as a major issue, as his original telling of his story could be seen as a way of obscuring his true identity - and it certainly wouldn’t be the first time that a villain has lied about his or her origin. Using a B-list villain like Taskmaster as a central character gives the writer some room to move, as his origin hasn’t been retold over and over. What Van Lente has come up with for his Taskmaster is extremely clever and creates captivating tale.

Van Lente’s writing is extremely solid throughout this book, and in my opinion the humorous edge he brings to the story is what really makes it. The funniest part of the tale is the revelation of the identity of the villain behind the plot against Taskmaster: it’s Redshirt, The Uber-Henchman, who has drawn together the lackeys of A.I.M., HYDRA and the rest of Marvel’s seemingly endless string of super-criminal organisations into an organisation he’s dubbed the Minion’s International Liberation Front to rise up against their leaders and take control of The Org. That’s right, the M.I.L.F. There are quite a few funny segments in the story (“Don of the Dead” is classic!), but Redshirt takes the cake - and yes, the origins of the term “redshirt” do get a nod.

Jefte Palo's style wouldn't suit every book, but it works well here. It's a sketchy style, but he still manages to convey emotion and detail when needed. I don't know that I'd want him to take over any of my favourite ongoing series, but his work here is quite effective.

While some may consider this story a retcon of Taskmaster, the end result for this reader is that it makes the character a much more rounded and accessible member of the Marvel Universe. I’d love to see Van Lente carry on with Taskmaster, as this mini-series has created a world for him and laid the ground work for many more interesting stories.

Prior to this I’d only read Van Lente’s writing in his collaborations with Greg Pak, so it was nice to hear his “voice” on its own. I’ll definitely be looking up more of his work, and I’m very psyched for Pak and Van Lente’s take on my dear old Alpha Flight!

Taskmaster: Unthinkable definitely gets two TWT thumbs up! If you think you’d like to read it, click here to buy it at Amazon and support Trade Waiting Tales!

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Happy reading!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

TWT Checks Out The Boys: Highland Laddie

Garth Ennis’ series The Boys has been one of my favourite series since I discovered the early trades of the comic a couple of years ago. I pretty much devoured the first five or so volumes of this series, which so cleverly turns the table on the mainstream superhero genre. Tonight I’m looking at the latest collection of the series in Trade Paperback, The Boys: Highland Laddie”.

While this has been put out as Volume 8 of the series, Highland Laddie was actually a six issue mini-series, much the same as Herogasm, which was issued as a Volume 5 of the series. While it stands apart from the main series in one respect, I’d still suggest that it’s required reading if you’re a fan of the series.

Anyone who knows The Boys won’t be surprised to know that Highland Laddie focuses on Wee Hughie, the Scotsman who has been the lens through which we have come to understand the world of The Boys. In the preceding issues of the main series, we’ve seen the origin stories of three other members of the “team”; Mother’s Milk (aka “MM”), The Frenchman and The Female. In this mini-series, it’s Hughie’s turn.

Having come to a crossroads in his desire to be a part of The Boys’ world, Hughie returns to his native Scotland for some thinking time, and we learn about his background and upbringing as a result. We meet his “Maw” and “Paw” and learn that he is adopted. We meet his two oddball friends from his youth, (Rich Johnston from Bleeding Cool has a great article about how Hughies’ family and friends are a homage to a 1930’s comic strip) and come to some understandings of what made Hughie the person that we met back in The Boys #1. It’s totally consistent with anything we may have known or thought about him, but adds a great deal of texture and understanding to his character and story.

As it turns out, this mini isn’t just a vehicle for Hughie - it’s also Starlight’s origin story. We’ve seen Annie January’s evolution from young innocent to the conflicted and somewhat cynical person she is in the stories today. When she comes to Scotland to try to patch things together with Hughie, we learn how she came into her powers and her “career” as a Vought American superhero. Ennis takes a stab at the fad of children’s beauty pageants by showing a Compound V infused iteration, which is the main section of this story that “feels” most like a classic Boys tale. It’s well done, and makes its point without unnecessary gore. This little flashback also gives us an insight into how Vought grooms its employees from an early age, and stage manages so much of what they do.

Alongside these “origin” stories, there is a storyline that is told and resolved within the mini-series which is a good read in itself. It seems unrelated to the world of The Boys at first, but by the end it has linked in, and explains a bit more of just how much the impacts of Compound V have bled in to normal society.

I have to admit that prior to reading this volume, I was coming to a bit of a crossroads with this series. I loved the initial story arcs, but the book seemed to have fallen into a predictable pattern: we meet new “heroes”, discover their particular form of debauchery, and then see them dispatched in some horrible manner. Fun, but for this reader at least there needs to be a little bit of soul to justify my gore and violence. It might just be mind tricks to justify guilty pleasures, but that’s the way I tick.

Highland Laddie is a welcome reprieve from that routine. Its focus is on helping us know Hughie and Annie better, and without spoiling anything, there’s no terrible sinister undertone to any of the characters we’re introduced to from Hughie’s upbringing. There is a refreshing normality of dysfunctional yet loving family relationships that comes through in this story which reinforces the points of difference between Hughie and the other members of The Boys, and I expect that the realisations that Hughie comes to within himself in this arc will have some flow-on effect to how he functions in the main book.

The verdict? If you read The Boys solely for the gore, sex and violence, Highland Laddie might disappoint, as they’re all in short supply here. If you character development is important to you, then Highland Laddie is essential reading, as it will not only add depth to your understanding of some of the main characters of the series, but is also sure to have some reverberations in the main series of The Boys. Definitely two TWT thumbs up!

What now? If you’d like to check out The Boys: Highland Laddie, click here to buy it from and support Trade Waiting Tales!

Next up: a blast from the past of the female, green, John Byrne variety: Sensational She-Hulk, Volume One. Should be fun!

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Happy reading!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

TWT checks out Time Masters: Vanishing Point

I have already written about my general disdain for today’s comic “events”, which is primarily derived from the sense that not many of the ‘changes’ that we are tantalised with in the promotion of these things actually lasts very long or makes much of a difference. That doesn’t mean however, that some of these stories can’t be enjoyed in trade form when read as stand-alone stories. That’s the case, more or less, with the trade I am reviewing tonight, which collects the Time Masters: Vanishing Point mini-series from DC Comics.

Infinite Crisis was a dog’s breakfast of a crossover event in some respects, but it has given us a few lasting things - the beginnings of what became the new Secret Six, a new Shadowpact (the loss of which I still mourn), visual images of Superboy Prime punching a lot of people to death and, out of very sad circumstances, a reinvigorated and re-purposed Booster Gold.

Geoff Johns may have authored the demise of Booster’s best buddy Ted Kord / Blue Beetle II, but he also got Booster’s post-52 solo book off to a great start, and gave the hero from the future a new purpose in the DCU as a policeman of time and protector of important events, and a limitation of never being able to reveal his vital role of keeping the fabric of the universe together, but instead having to maintain the guise of a publicity hound only out for his own gain. He also gave Booster a new nemesis in the form of the Black Beetle, a character shrouded in mystery. Johns  finished up his run on the book with a bang by revealing in his final issue that Booster would in fact become the father of his compatriot Rip Hunter. A cunning twist, and one that works and has added an interesting depth to Booster’s ongoing series.

Older Booster teaches a young Rip about things
an older Rip will teach a young Booster. Really.
The “mission” that Booster and Rip share embroils them in the search for Bruce Wayne and entangles them with Superman and Green Lantern and that is part of the basis for Time Masters. There is a second plot which revolves around Black Beetle and his “Time Stealers”: Per Degaton, Despero and Ultra-Humanite, on a suitably despicable mission. These two stories don’t really relate, and yet it all does manage to work together as a fairly cohesive whole.

While this story is packaged to look like the search for Batman is at the core of the book, in fact the most rewarding elements for this reader are the scenes with an older Booster and his young son Rip that begin each issue of the miniseries. This gives us our first real glimpse of the father / son relationship and fleshes out the reasons behind Rip’s mentoring of the younger version of his father. It also keeps us in the dark about who Booster’s future wife is, while showing us that she’s very much a part of their mission in time.

There is an interesting nugget here for Rip Hunter fans here, and that is a reference back to some of Jurgens’ own work as the creator of Hunter’s one time companions, The Linear Men. It was mentioned very early in the current run of Booster Gold that Hunter had locked the Linear Men away, but the reasons were never clear. In this series, we see the surviving team members - Matthew Ryder and Liri Lee, and learn that Rip fell out with the team due to differences of opinion about how time should or shouldn’t be interfered with. Eventually Rip had felt that he had to stop his former allies from meddling in matters of time, and imprisoned them. Now, Ryder and Lee are manipulated by the Black Beetle and his allies into helping locate the corpse of former teammate Waverider (who was actually an alternate world Matthew Ryder) so that Black Beetle can take Waverider’s remaining essence and use it to enhance his powers.

Black Beetle (yes, the guy in the red) wants Waverider's
corpse - but will the Linear Men let him have it?
While the Black Beetle / Waverider plot is an enjoyable read, the “Search for Bruce Wayne” side of the plotline has a few issues. Part of this is due to the way that Jurgens uses Superman and Green Lantern. Their presence in the book seems to have been more about boosting sales by having them on the cover than making any meaningful contribution to the story. They are present on the adventures throughout the issues, but aren’t well written or given anything terribly meaningful to do. Superman spends way too much time talking about himself (“Anyone who knows me know that I would never...”) and Green Lantern takes a high and mighty attitude towards Booster that is pretty uncharacteristic for Hal Jordan. While Jurgens wants us to understand that these heroes don’t really respect Booster, I think he goes too far in trying to reinforce that point by having them treat him in a way that Superman in particular probably wouldn’t treat anyone. This is particularly odd considering that Jurgens is very experienced at writing Kal-el. The end result is that these two heroes end up being two-dimensional props in a story in which they could have played a more meaningful role. The end result for me personally was that these sections of the story felt more like something I had to wade through to get to the much more interesting Booster / Young Rip and Time Stealers / Linear Men Sequences. One definitely gets the sense that these aspects of the story is where Jurgens’ heart is as well.

The premise of Booster and Rip’s mission allows writers to draw characters or plots from any era of the DCU, and Jurgens makes the most of it here, There is a great deal packed in to this book, including enjoyable sequences with Claw the Unconquered, the original female Starfire, Supernova and the Reverse Flash. Claw and Starfire are both well written and well drawn, and it’s great to see them in the DCU again. Zoom’s role in the story isn’t huge, but he’s also used and characterised effectively.

Gee, Hal. Sanctimonious much??
In the end, this is undoubtedly a Booster Gold / Rip Hunter tale, and this miniseries actually adds a great deal to their story. I am a big fan of Dan Jurgens’ art, and having him on art duties brings a familiarity and consistency to the book for Booster Gold readers.
While this story certainly adds some depth and texture to The Return of Bruce Wayne, it’s by no means required reading for Batman fans. For Booster Gold fans I’d say this is pretty much a must. It adds to the Booster / Rip story, to the development of Black Beetle, and the way in which the Waverider aspect of the story is resolved seems likely to have repercussions back in Booster’s solo book. I’d also recommend it for people wanting a taste of what makes Booster’s solo series work. If you don’t like time travel / continuity / time paradox stories, stay right away. This is not for you!

Next review I’ll be straying away from the Big Two and heading over to Dynamite Entertainment Territory by reviewing Volume 8 of The Boys: Highland Laddie. Should be fun!

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Happy reading!