The end of the battle against the 1000!
OLDER SPOILERS AHEAD
The news crew shows up to the wreck in the aftermath of the fight with Shockwave. No one's really happy with Booster. With the public against him thanks to Shockwaves' destruction, Trixie and Sarah kidnapped, the comic guys dead, and his powers fading things look pretty bleak. Worse yet Booster doesn't know that Skeets has been taken over by the 1000.
While Trixie and Sarah are being moved to another cell where Trixie see Ballard tied up in one of the cells they pass by. It's a ploy the Director set up that comes up with in an already smart set up for our hero. He wants to fight Booster as equal by having his power drained but at the same time he has a remote created to force Skeets to take a shot at his partner.
Arriving at the warehouse Booster comes in contact with the standard scuba diving thugs. Come on you know you smiled when you saw that. If this took place in the snowy mountains I'm sure we'd get a skier squad too. It's a quirky action comic thing that I find endearing. Booster clues into something being off with Skeets since he's developed a sarcastic sense of humor. (See I told you in issue one that this Skeets was different from the more current version.) They fight more henchmean depleting more power from Boosters' energy cells.
While this is going on Dirk struggles between blaming Booster for what happened to his daughter and believing in him. This leads to him arriving at the warehouse to see the outcome. Stopping lasers from firing him leaves Booster powerless with only his flight ring left working. The small details like Booster realizing nothing is firing at Skeets really help build the sense of unease as we wait to see what happens with the beloved robot pal.
They go down a level to find the girls but Trixie informs him of another prisoner she saw, Ballard. Knowing that he can't endanger them Booster follows Skeets suggestion that he give the ring to Trixie. I gotta say I find Sarah more likable than Fern was and her innocence seems more sincere. The line "are you a boy robot or a girl robot?" for example just feels more genuine. Another characterization I like is the small bit with the Director telling the others to leave so only Booster and him are left. This would have seemed forced if not for a detail back a few issues ago when the Chiller murdered one of his men on a whim. He was outraged saying the guard was a good man and realized he had to work with people he didn't like to get the job done. If nothing else he at least respects his loyal men and this order fits thanks to that exchange.
Finding Ballard he unties him, Ballard pushes the remote that activates Skeets to shoot Booster. So much for meeting as equals. Dressing as the Director he informs his foe what a joke he is as a hero, listing his faults and preparing to kill him with a normal gun. I can't help being reminded of Ted Kords' death but even without it this is a powerful scene showing how frightening it is to be at someone's mercy. Despite taking a lot into account there's one thing they didn't think of that will costs the Director, Skeets' back up power. It's enough to allow him to fire a shot that frees Booster. The fight that follows is a good one although I remember when I read it for the first time and thinking "how can a old guy keep up with a young athletic superhero?" I still think that a bit although Jurgens did hint that Ballard keeps in shape since he was at the gym in #1.
Booster didn't take Ballard seriously as a threat and it costs him some broken bones. Knowing that he has to end it Booster puts his all into delivering enough hits to put Ballard down for the count. Then something interesting happens as Booster remarks that he should kill Ballard himself. The only reason he doesn't is because he thinks bringing him in alive is worse. Look at the wording here:
Booster Gold: You're a murderer, Ballard--evil to the core! I should do the world a favor and kill you myself! But that would be too easy on you! Your face is going to be dragged through the courts for everyone to see! And when they put a disgraced U.S. Senator away for life, I'll be the one turning the key!"
Years ago during my first read I took the killing bit as a bluff but now? Ballard likely can't hear any of this as he's being knocked out. The point is that Booster is pissed off after everything the Director did. He thinks being publically disgraced is worse than death. Booster literally suffered that fate with his scandal so this statement underlines how horrible that experience was for him. To do that to someone else, someone that took away everything he built up has to be the ultimate payback. While Jurgens later has Booster act more in line with Batman on where the line will be drawn with bad guys this won't be the last time he threatens to kill someone. I'm actually curious if that will always be the case but the hint of darkness isn't something you'd expect.
Whether you count him killing the "artificial carnivores" a few pages ago is up for debate since it's never clear what they are. Speaking of which the fire he started from that surrounds the two. Outside Trixie, Dirk and Sarah wait to see if their hero makes it. There are a few moments in this series that I think are truly iconic such as the shot of Superman glaring down at Booster. The last two pages of them waiting until Booster walks through the flames holding Skeets before collapsing is another such moment. That last page is Booster out cold in the rain with his suit shredded and Skeets broken. Well done Mr. Jurgens, that was excellent arc that leads to a uncertain future for the hero. But just because the 1000 is defeated doesn't mean things get easy for Booster.
Say What?: To Boosters' credit he does briefly think how they don't have time to get help like Superman. At least he wouldn't be too proud to ask.
Trixie says that their guards are a little too handsy which Sarah readily agrees with. Uh, is she agreeing that they touch Trixie too much or is something else being implied? I don't think Jurgens would go there but the way it's phrased had me re-reading it.
The 1000 bred mutated carnivores that want to eat Booster?! Were they just created for him or did they kill other people? I guess he killed them, they were referred to as "artificial" but they'd have to be living in some respect right? Wow, this pondering session got dark fast.
The 1000 controlled Skeets doesn't correct the phrase "playing us like a piano" like the regular Skeets would. It's a nice detail.
How did Booster know Dirk was outside? He arrived when Booster was going down.
Booster gets back at Ballard for always calling him Buster by referring to him as "Bedfellow." It's very apt.
The Director's full title is Director of Death?
Did you notice?: I found a odd coincidence in this issue that relates to something that happen later on. Like Booster calling some thugs creatures from Dimension X, a place he'll find out about much to his regret.
Are Trixie and Sarah in their cell when Booster finds them or a hallway?