It’s a Major Disaster area, baby.

January 30th, 2007 by | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

This is going to sound weird coming on the heels of my “Ollie Queen is a jerk!” post, but hear me out.

I love character turns, be it heroes gone bad (Zoom, Batgirl, Eradicator) or villains gone good. It’s always interesting to see that breaking point that makes someone change. This post is about a villain who went good.

Paul Booker was a crap villain. He called himself Major Disaster, wore a disaster of a costume, and had a disaster of a career. To be quite honest, I haven’t read a lot of his early work just because it looked so awful. He’s got on pink gogo boots, a blue body suit, and a lighter blue hood. It’s a costume on par with some of Scarlet Witch and The Wasp’s worst excesses, but not quite as bad as Susan Richards’s negative-space 4 costume from the ’90s.

Booker joined the JLA at Batman’s request. Yes, the same Batman who gave Huntress the old heave-ho. The JLA were MIA and he had a Substitute League lined up in case of emergencies. Booker so liked the respect that he stuck around on the team and ended up proving his worth. He even made it onto the JLElite, before finally retiring.

Booker’s face turn for JLA was more of an “Okay I’m good now guys” rather than a gradual shift, but it feels right. Here is a guy that, in another world, could’ve been a true hero. He could theoretically prevent disasters, or come up with new ways to research them. The problem is, he’s selfish. He decided to look out for number one first and foremost, and ended up crap villain. He’s had tastes of the good life during his stints in the Suicide Squad and Justice League Antarctica, but he never hit the big times until the JLA accepted him.

He brings an interesting dynamic to the team for a couple reasons. One, he’s a reformed villain. As he says at the beginning of the Rules of Engagement arc, “Vote from the reformed criminal type! If more capes hunted down more bad guys, we’d have a lot less crime!” He doesn’t look at things like the other heroes do. He’s a very to-the-point, man-of-action type. If there is an easy solution that solves the problem well, do it! Why not?

Second, Booker is a big, dumb lug in the Bibbo Bibbowski/Lobo vein. He doesn’t say exactly what’s on his mind because he doesn’t really think. His brain isn’t just not connected to his mouth, it’s not connected, full stop.

hurr.jpg Case in point. When the Elite gets together, they’re masterminded by Naif al-Sheikh, who can best be described as an Arab, male, and chainsmoking version of Amanda Waller. He’s got crazy black-ops and intelligence clout, so much so that the JLE gets approval based on his word alone. al-Sheikh sees these men and women as “demons playing in the robes of angels.” They terrify him, and that cannot be. He wants them to share a secret so that they can begin to build a trust. He wants them to explain why they fight for the light from the shadows. Booker’s response? “I, umm… this is really gay. Can’t we just go kick the @&#% out of some bad guys, “sir?”

This man is “Hurrrr!” incarnate! Another example. Booker’s been talking about Kasumi, an assassin on the team with something to hide. This scene follows:


Yes, Booker. You got zapped because it’s that time of the month. That is it exactly.

disaster_01.jpg Booker’s gimmick isn’t just being crass, though. Well, it is, but there’s more to him than that. You see, Booker has a problem. He likes to drink. He drinks to cope. One member of the Elite killed someone on a mission, and that’s a big no-no, and definitely cause for papa to spank. Booker chooses to go out drinking to help deal with the problem. He pretty much drinks a bar dry, and when he’s told that there is no more beer left, a fully loaded beer truck crashes outside the joint. What a disaster, right?

disaster_02.jpg His troubles continue later. He shows up hungover to an undercover mission. The JSA appear, and not being informed about the Elite, attack. In the process, Booker’s powers conflict with another’s powers and Hawkgirl ends up getting a katana through the chest. Still later on, he and the non-undercover Elite go on a rescue mission for the rest of their team. Things go south when the man they’re chasing drop a few technobabble bombs behind him. Booker boasts a little about easily being able to short-circuit the bombs when his own power cuts out. He’s too drunk to make it work. Manitou Raven is nearby and heartbroken over both his wife’s infidelity and the fact that he neglected her for so long. He looks up, sees the Black Racer, and understands the position that he’s in. He’s been given a choice. He says “Inukchuk” and takes the brunt of the bomb blasts, killing himself in the process.

Booker’s drinking killed one of his friends. He takes Manitou’s medicine stick back to Dawn and mentions that it’s cold. It doesn’t like to be carried. However, when Superman held it, it was warm to the touch. What does that say about Booker?

Booker is pretty much distraught after this. He goes home, gets into the bathtub, and apologizes to Raven as he slits his wrists.

That’s not the end of his story, though. In the next issue, a scene takes place in a church in Seattle. Paul Booker is there. He thinks back to his suicide. He wakes up all of a sudden and realizes that he isn’t dead, but he is hung over. He looks at the razor he used on his wrists and sees that it is plenty sharp, but it refuses to cut anything. He laughs about screwing up his own suicide and gets ready for a “toast to consistency” with another bottle when something odd happens. A raven taps on his window, drawing his attention. It looks at him and he looks back.

Nuh-uh, buddy.


And that is the end of that.

There is a bit more to JLE. Bad things go down in London, but Booker makes the choice to keep away from the capes so that he can stay strong. They’re understanding. Vera Lynn Black even goes so far as to say that it would break her heart to drive that man to drink again.

This, lads and ladies, is how you do a redemption story. Your newly minted hero doesn’t have to have existential angst over being a hero and doesn’t need to “make the ultimate sacrifice.” Booker’s redemption came not at the hands of a villain, but in the basement of a church. He can finally get over the guilt and self-loathing that he’s been harboring and deal with his problems.

I’m having trouble thinking of another redemption story that was done half as well. Austen’s best work in comics ever was probably his Juggernaut reformation, though it kind of never rose above “Haha half the X-Men hate me even though I’m on the team.” This is one of my favorite comic stories period, not to mention one of the best JL stories out there.

Of course, it has already been pretty much dismantled thanks to the various Crises. Wally West is elsewhere, Manitou Dawn is MIA (and was last written by Bob Harras in JLA), Coldcast, Vera Lynn, and al-Sheikh are all forgotten, and Major Disaster apparently got killed during Infinite Crisis #7, according to Wikipedia. Not to mention the fact that DC Comics only ever put out one trade of the 12 issue series, and that was in 2005. If Emperor Joker can get a complete trade, so can this! It deserves it, and is some of Joe Kelly and Doug Mahnke’s finest work. It is at least four times as good as Meltzer’s JLA, and I can prove this with mathemagic.

theidiot.jpg One last thing. It is a crying shame that Naif al-Sheikh has been forgotten, especially since DC has the perfect vehicle to use him: Checkmate. I’m not even kidding when I say he’s the male Amanda Waller. He’s got stones and a number of interesting personality quirks. There are a number of scenes where he’s so frustrated that he’s smoking two cigarettes at once without even thinking about it. He’s got dirt on everyone, all the way to the point that he can call the moon from his mobile phone because he has the number. He’s a bad, bad man and would be the perfect foil for Waller.

Shoot, they’d probably hate each other’s guts, but be best buds.

Similar Posts:

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to Reddit Post to StumbleUpon

3 comments to “It’s a Major Disaster area, baby.”

  1. His death at IC#7 sucked. I wasn’t a big fan, though I enjoyed his appearances in JLA. Major Disaster deserved better.

  2. This shocks me to the very core of my being, but you’ve actually made me want to give JLElite a 2nd chance. And I loathed it after only reading the JLA set-up and the first issue…

    On the other hand I really liked Major Disaster in the all-too brief “Suicide Squad” relaunch…

  3. The one with Paco Medina (I think) on art? Yeah, that was good stuff.