Action Comics #996
“Booster Shot, Part IV”
Writer: Dan Jurgens
Artist: Will Conrad
Colors: Ivan Nunes
Letters: Rob Leigh
Cover artists: Dan Jurgens & Trevor Scott (regular)/Dustin Nguyen (variant)
Editor: Paul Kaminski
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $2.99 US
I started reading this series again for the “Oz Effect” story arc, which piqued my interest and impressed with its artwork. I continued to read because this followup arc, “Booster Shot,” offered the promise of a classic team-up tale, and new Booster Gold artwork from the character’s creator, Dan Jurgens. And at first, this title delivered. But four issues into this story, we’re on our third artist, and plot hasn’t really advanced in any appreciable way. It feels as though the approaching milestone for the series is dictating the pacing of the plot, rather than any focus on storytelling.
Superman, Booster Gold and their malfunctioning time sphere crash on an alien planet several years in the future, where they discover that General Zod and its Kryptonian forces have taken over. The heroes must strive to survive and locate replacement parts so they can resume their journey through time. Meanwhile, Lois Lane infiltrates the country of Logamba, determined to rescue her father but unaware her son Jon has hitched along for the ride.
Will Conrad does an excellent job with the art here, much to my surprise. Either he’s adapted style or I didn’t have a strong sense of what it really was to begin with, but what I found here was something akin to the smooth linework of J.G. Jones. He handles the sci-fi and super-hero genre elements adeptly. Nevertheless, I found the artwork to be a bit disappointing, through no fault of Conrad’s. We have yet another team handling the chores in this story arc, denying it a consistent look. Furthermore, part of the appeal of the story arc in the beginning was seeing Dan Jurgens illustrating a Superman/Booster pairing, but we only got a tease of that.
While Jurgens does provide the art for the main cover, the Dustin Nguyen alternate cover is far more eye-catching. Mind you, that style wouldn’t have served the interiors very well. As for the regular cover, it commits the sin of spoiling the big reveal the end of the issue. A recent issue of The Flash did the same by pronouncing Gorilla Grodd as the big bad guy on the cover while withholding that information in the story until the final moment of the plot. I find it puzzling how editors at DC can’t juggle those facets of storytelling and production.
Part of the problem with this chapter of the story arc is that it’s becoming abundantly clear that writer Dan Jurgens is just spinning his wheels, padding things out until the publisher is ready to push out its 1,000th issue of Action Comics. The Superman/Booster Gold team-up should have been a fairly straightforward affair, a satisfying coda to the Jor-El story arc. It doesn’t help that the Kryptonian elements — Zod, the Eradicator robots, etc. — aren’t that terribly interesting as antagonists. There are two promises upon which the plot doesn’t capitalize: Superman’s need for closure about his father’s fate, and Booster’s need for redemption and recognition. The plot here serves neither.
The Lois Lane subplot, while appropriately paralleling Superman’s quest for truth about his father, is frustrating. It’s one thing to portray Louis as a prize-winning and determined reporter; it’s another to make those skills transferable to the roll of black-ops mercenary. I don’t need Lois to be a damsel in distress, but this notion that no path is blocked to her thanks to her pluck strains credibility beyond the breaking point. It’s always been a tripping point of this character and other journalists in comics culture for me, and perhaps that’s because I’m a newspaper journalist by trade. Lois’s contacts should open up an entire world of possibilities to her, but not an opportunity at a solo mission to save her father from political death. Running contrary to her savvy and skills on display in the story is her obliviousness to her son’s presence. Either Lois is a super-spy or she’s not. 4/10