A wedding of epic proportions between Batman and Catwoman is fast approaching. But who can think about that when Booster Bold finds himself in a nightmare version of the DC universe where people become “Jokerized” and Batman wields assault rifles?
Written by Tom King
Illustrated by Tony S. Daniel
Inking Assists by John Livesay
Colored by Tomeu Morey
Lettered by Clayton Cowles
“THE TRAVELERS” part one! Booster Gold has come to Gotham City, and he’s enlisting Batman and Catwoman to go on a time-traveling mission to rescue…Booster Gold! It seems a younger Booster Gold has gone back in time to kidnap an even younger version of himself, and to rescue his own past, Booster must pursue both of his previous incarnations through Batman’s history to find out what is going on. The start of a new story that will sow the seeds for a whole new epic to come—and also the return of Master Class artist Tony S. Daniel (DAMAGE) to BATMAN!
Tom King’s run on Batman has been met with both immense praise and disappointment. I’m in the latter camp. I want King to succeed because he’s written some brilliant material before but this issue is one of the most frustrating reads I’ve encountered in a while. Namely, because this whole plot revolves around a story cliché we’ve seen a million times over.
It seems like every other issue is about post-apocalyptic landscape where heroes and villains are warped into alternative versions of themselves. This issue is no different and suffers immensely from a variety of other problems.
Turns out Booster Gold went back in time to make sure Batman’s parents weren’t killed as a wedding gift. But, big shock, it turns out that’s warped the whole universe! Talia al Gul has released some form of disease/toxin that transforms people into Joker-like goons. Jason Todd is alive and well, ironically selling anti-Joker security measures called the “Todd-Tire-Taze” and, most significantly, Batman’s parents being alive has led him to shoot criminals with assault rifles.
This avalanche of alternate universe riffs comes off as smugly self-gratifying and slathers the issue in some form of nihilistic, post-modern irreverence. At least most other post-apocalyptic comics around these days take actually delve into more compelling thematic and moral intrigue. Even if you’re not tired of reading yet another “end of the world as we know it” story, King’s version brings nothing unique to the table.
This issue is so focused on stacking up clever references and different takes on the DC universe, it foregoes any real sense of tension or stakes. It feels like a useless exercise or experiment instead of a captivating story we can become invested in.
In an . . . intriguing turn, Booster Gold shows up as our main character of sorts, our guide through this nightmare world of fractured prisms. But his incessant, Deadpool-like banter equates to a tonal nightmare. I’ve never liked this character, and I hate him now, because he’s the brattiest juvenile punk excuse for a “superhero.” What kind of hero, or supposedly lovable character, watches Green Lantern commit suicide only to turn around and say, I kid you not, “Awesome!” You could make the argument this is a younger Booster Gold, so he’s less mature, but if you hadn’t read the solicit, you wouldn’t know that from the information presented herein.
Is Booster Gold supposed to be completely brain-dead? What hero would be stupid enough to say: “Hey, I’ll change the time-stream continuum! That’s never led to boorish alternative universes before!” This further points to the fact that this narrative is clichéd and overused.
Batman shows up as a gun-toting killer, which is something that’s been explored much better in many, many other comics. Tom King might be able to pull around an interesting dynamic for Bruce in later issues if he has to give up his parents for “the greater good” by the end. But even that idea is unoriginal and wouldn’t fix the issue at hand.
Tony Daniel is a staple of modern Batman but this is his sloppiest art I’ve ever seen, and it brings me great pain to say this. First of all, there’s a lack of detail for not only most of the characters but especially in the background department, which is lazier than the extreme ’90s comics that almost completely ignore backgrounds. Even if they’re a dime a dozen, alternative universe stories can be compelling with great world-building and scope, but Daniel’s art comes across as rushed, especially compared to the dynamite work that Sean Murphy is putting out right now in ‘Batman: White Knight,’ which, in contrast, brings Gotham to visceral life.Continued below
Even worse is Daniel’s “storytelling.” I get that it’s the artist’s job to draw the reader in with compelling storytelling that uses a variety of angles, composition, and detail to craft a mesmerizing piece. The opposite is true of Daniel’s work, which not only lacks detail and feels fake, but uses lazy composition by repeating the exact same angle across entire pages and only changing the distance of the characters. You could say this is an artistic decision, but even if it is, it’s drab and unimaginative.
Tom King spends far too much time dwelling on Booster Gold’s calculated banter dialogue with his robot, Skeets, and clumsily shoehorns in snippets of other characters throughout to fill the page count since Batman doesn’t show up until about halfway through. How are we supposed to be invested in this new world if we’re rushing past these details like animatronics on a roller coaster?
Final Verdict: 3.3 – The post-apocalyptic trope due to time travel has been done countless times before, and Tom King’s post-modern, derivative take doesn’t do the cliché or Batman any favors.