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Booster Gold: What is it, Max?! What is this all about?!
Maxwell Lord: You think I’m going to tell you?! Go find some moustache-twirling black hat tying a chick to rail road tracks for crap like that! Or y’know the Ultra-Humanite!
Synopsis "Just Stopping By"
Maxwell Lord, the former director of Checkmate and the JLI, has forced his old JLI teammates to reform after he ostracised them from their employers and allies. Under Booster Gold’s leadership the JLI broke into Checkmate Castle following a lead on Max’s location, but they failed to find him. Their identity was discovered and they were forced to flee to an old decommissioned JLI Embassy in Potsdam, Germany. Fire leaves the others to check on their computers and runs straight into the missing Max.
Lord surprises Fire with the quip “So, Bea.. How’ve you been?” He then uses his mind control power to shut down her resistance and forces her to sit quietly on a chair. He threatens to blow her knees off if she keeps talking and then returns to working at the computer station.
Meanwhile, in the next room tempers are running high. Tora (Ice) is again saying that she wants to quit, but Captain Atom argues that they’re fighting “not because we want to”, but “because we have to!” Gavril (Rocket Red) is recuperating and talking with Skeets when the little robot detects that something is wrong. Max tries blocking Skeet’s probes and crash its programming with a jolt of electricity.
Max then sends Fire to attack Gavril. Her body is controlled, but she still has her own mind and shouts a warning. The rest of the JLI comes running and Captain Atom grapples Fire. The intensity of her flame keeps increasing as the Captain slowly absorbs the flame energy. He gently forces her to pass out, shutting down her flame, preventing any injuries. Booster goes after Max, but he refuses to divulge his plans. Max manages to momentarily hold Booster off with his mind control before staggering to a teleporter tube and making his own escape.
The JLI having failed to find Max stumble into him by accident. Max does a good line in up popping up randomly, but at least he always seems to be occupied – e.g. when he talks to them over the Rocket Red’s radio in an earlier issue and when he shows up in Power Girl. However, it’d still be nice to have a sense of what’s he up to. The Mighty Monarch gets to the point by saying,
It’ll probably be fleshed out later, but Max’s appearance seems really sudden and almost pointless. It’s really strange and almost out of character for him. I spent most of the issue being baffled and never really got snapped out of it. What the hell was he doing there and why couldn’t he have done it from somewhere else.
It’s almost as if this issue was more about frustrating the heroes – and at times the readers – than it was in advancing the plot. Therein lies the purpose of this issue, as Read/Rant says it’s “less about the punches thrown and more about the character conflicts” . Our heroes were pretty demoralised after last issue’s failure to find Max, this issue is the one that pi**es them off again and pushes them past their defeat. Booster and Captain Atom are galvanised again, but for Ice it’s going to be the last straw. (That said a couple of reviewers were disappointed that the Blue Beetle wasn’t getting more to do. )
To come from an issue draw by Aaron Lopresti to one drawn by Raul Fernandez is rather jarring. I know multiple art teams are necessary on a fortnightly book, but its becoming painfully obvious that Lopresti is by far the best of them. Last week Lopresti got genuine pathos into into Ice’s pain, but this issue she just looks like a spoilt 7-year-old who’se been told she’s got to eat her vegetables. There are moments in the story that require you to deduce what happen earlier in a scene from later events – Max forcing Fire to sit down, Max being thrown off balance by an explosion. Not bad story, just a lapse in storytelling.
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There is not really much to annotate this issue – we’re up to speed on the characters and there is little new material.
Page 3 – “Future Tech” force field as Fire states was stolen from Booster Gold. Michael John Carter was originally a college footballer from the 25th century who was disgraced by a betting scam and fled to the 21st century to become a superhero. He stole a set of weaponry and gadgets from a museum in his time and used them to create his costumed identity.
Page 4 - Max has the ability to control peoples minds, a side effect of his power is the nosebleed shown here.
Page 5 - Just how big is Max’s gun. A couple of pages ago it looked like a little hand gun then when he was hiding in the force field it was as long as his forearm, now it’s a massive carbine. Another oddity, why is Max threatening to blow her knee-caps off when he could just shut her down completely with his power.
Page 8 – Interesting that Gavril sees Skeet’s as an equal.
Page 9 – It’s the old frying the Artoo unit via the computer port routine.
Page 11 – Rocket Red: “Chyort!” is as you can guess from a context a mid Russian curse word (English “damn”).
Page 17 – I found this confusing, Max appears to convulse when he’s actually been thrown off balance by Beetle’s explosion. Very confusing art.
Page 21 - Magog alias Lance Corporal David Reid of the US Marine Corps is speaking. He’d apparently been discharged from the Marines so that he could work with the Justice Society and had returned to civilian life as a free agent in his own comic book series. His military commission was reactivated in Justice League: Generation Lost #2 where he was shown fighting Captain Atom at a US airforce base.
Page 23 – I’ve recently gone into detail on Magog’s origins in Kingdom Come and the latest activities of this Earth’s Magog. Needless to say, the Captain Atom/Magog connection is always going to be the nuclear explosion in Kingdom Come caused by Captain Atom being killed whilst working with Magog.