“I’m NOT Green Lantern. I’m Booster Gold!”
It’s a running gag that started in “The Greatest Story Never Told,” episode seven of Justice League Unlimited. After saving a crowd of innocent bystanders, Booster Gold is approached by a little boy with a pen and notepad.
“Can I have your autograph?” the boy asks.
“Of course you can,” Booster says, full of pride.
Booster signs the kid’s notepad and hands it back. The boy’s face immediately sinks. “I thought you were Green Lantern,” he says, disappointment unmistakable.
Nowadays you can’t mention Booster Gold on a comic book internet forum without seeing “Green Lantern looks great these days” or some variation thereof. (Well played, Andrew Kreisberg.)
So who else shows up on the very first page of Batman #45, opposite Booster Gold — but Green Lantern? … Holding his Power Ring up to his own temple like a loaded gun, forecasting his own suicide?! No doubt, Booster probably wants comeuppance for all those years of mistaken identity and being the butt of a joke — but by God, not like this, right?
But that’s exactly what happens in Batman #45’s opening sequence, writer Tom King’s first installment of “The Gift,” and our introduction to a bizarre alternate reality where Bruce Wayne isn’t Batman (and his parents are still alive); the person who is Batman runs around Gotham with enough firepower to make the Punisher envious; crime is rampant thanks to a gang of murderous Jokers and of course, there’s aforementioned Booster Gold — who barely even blinks when Green Lantern commits ring-icide before his very eyes.
His exact words, in fact: “That was… intense. Also, admittedly, a little bit, or kind of… awesome!” All while nonchalantly wiping bloodspecks from his trademark goggles.
So what the hell is going on? As is custom with writer Tom King, the answer to that question in our first installment isn’t yet clear. And despite how contrived from a shock value standpoint one might find the opening Green Lantern sequence (or how similarly vitriolic the outcry is from GL fans with this issue as it was with Batman “beating Superman with a whistle” or Catwoman spinkicking Flashes into unconsciousness in Batman #42), the eagerness to find out is undeniable.
That’s because King’s setup is undeniably skilled. Booster, although apathetic to Hal Jordan’s suicide and exhibiting a rapport with robotic companion Skeets that’s much more quarrelsome in nature than we’re accustomed to, is nothing short of entertaining; the two’s bickering evocative of some strange amalgam of Han Solo, Chewie, C-3PO and R2D2 we never knew we wanted. The rest of the story ingredients have distinctive flavor too: Batman’s introduction, guns blazing and austerity levels approaching Frank Miller levels, is big; as is Bruce Wayne’s (again, not Batman in this universe); and the brief moments we’re given with a lobotomized Duke and a dueling R’as and Talia al Ghul have me craving “The Gift” part two.
The writing is complemented by the solid artwork, courtesy of artist Tony S. Daniel, inker John Livesay and colorist Tomeu Morey. The aforementioned Batman introduction, with a grim and gritty Dark Knight, clad in body armor and sporting a mean-looking automatic rifle is one of the standout visuals. There’s also Booster Gold, whose crisp, clean blue and gold costume design pops from every page in which he’s featured and little details such as the luminous blue glow that follows Skeets in his wake as he flies, the familiar green radiance of Green Lantern’s power ring (however brief it may shine) and Daniel’s impressive slew of facial expressions (Batman’s menacing grimace and Booster’s dispassionate gaze as GL de-constructs his own skull in the reflection of his goggles being prime examples).
Is It Good?
I’m starting to sound like a broken record, but Batman #45 is another solid start to a King narrative that has me fiending to find out what happens next. The art is solid from top to bottom and as much as I like the Bat-Cat relationship, the alternate universe presents a fun, enigmatic change of pace. Grab this one.