Blue Beetle has returned to a new ongoing series, and he’s back with a team that knows how to treat him right. It’s time to take a new look at one of my longtime favorites, and make no attempt at hiding my disdain for his New 52 run.
Written by Keith Giffen
Illustrated by Scott Kolins
Jaime Reyes is back home, but just when he thought he had a grasp on this alter-ego, the Blue Beetle, he discovers everything he believed about his scarab is a lie according to the mysterious Doctor Fate. With dire warnings about the symbiote that is fused to Reyes’ spine, Kent Nelson, the original wielder of Doctor Fate’s power, seemingly on the verge of insanity, has he come to save Jaime as he claims… or will he try to eliminate the Blue Beetle, no matter the cost?
Blue Beetle has been one of my favorite heroes ever since I was first introduced to Jaime Reyes, which was thankfully before the New 52 reboot. The characters were great, it defied many of the tired superhero cliches, and it perfectly blended comedy and serious storytelling while giving Jaime a solid place in the DC universe.
Then the New 52 blew that all to bits. Before then, I had never rage quit a comic, but the New 52 Blue Beetle run viciously discarded everything that made the comic great, until the Beetle vs Booster showdown made me give it up altogether.
But Blue Beetle is back, with Keith Giffen once more penning his adventures. He’s brought back a good part of Jaime’s support network (Paco and Brenda are still with him and know his secret identity), and has expanded it with Ted Kord acting as his super mentor.
While Jaime’s first adventures had him trying to live up to the Blue Beetle name that Ted left behind, that’s no longer such a concern in this universe, where Ted is alive and well. So instead we get to see the two work together, often times to Jaime’s dismay; Ted may have confidence in his protege, but that comes across as a callous lack of concern for any potential danger Jaime gets thrown into. His tendency to not give Jaime important information or details, even upon being asked, doesn’t entirely help, and turns them into an amusingly dysfunctional team (though it’s clear they still respect one another somewhere deep down inside).
One other interesting shift is the scarab’s nature. The first run with Jaime turned it from a magical artifact into an alien device, but as seen in “Rebirth,” it’s now changing back from an alien device to a magical artifact again. That does, of course, beg the question about The Reach, the aliens who (pre-retcon) created the scarabs, and have been seen using similar scarabs in literally every iteration of the Jaime Reyes Blue Beetle (pre-Flashpoint, New 52, and even animated appearances), but no doubt that is a question that will be answered in time.
So the comic does begin to set up the magical aspects of the Blue Beetle scarab once again, beginning with recurring dreams. As everyone knows, dreams in any form of media are never just dreams, and are typically either prohphetic or a flashback to something the dreamer is somehow connected to. This appears to be the latter, showing Doctor Fate engaged in an epic battle against a giant azure insect.
But of course, as people always do in these situations, it’s dismissed as “just a dream.”
Artistically, though, the dream sequence looks very nice. While the panels are lined with text boxes of Jaime and Brenda chatting, we see a field of red and blue, filled with blasts of magic, and Doctor Fate in what is clearly a dire situation. Scott Kolins does an excellent job illustrating the battle, keeping the action dynamic and the magic epic, while nicely showing Doctor Fate’s battle damage. And the monstrous cobalt bug (I’m not calling it a “blue beetle” to avoid confusion, because this is certainly not the Blue Beetle we know, or even the scarab he wears) looks impressive, massive, and menacing.
For the rest of the issue, the art varies, depending on the scene. The crowd shots are packed full of characters, each with a different design, although that can make the smaller panels feel claustrophobic, and the details around the main characters can grow a little weak, particularly when it comes to their eyes. They’re far more clear in the panels just focusing on one or two characters alone.Continued below
However, Scott’s strengths come through in the action and the extranormal. He does a great job with Blue Beetle’s suit, which shifts around in minute ways depending on Jaime’s emotional state and the needs of the moment. The metahuman monster he fights looks fantastic, as though it’s made out of dark stone and shadows, and there are some excellent scenes in their battle, particularly when it tries to pull Jaime into the darkness.
When it comes to the main story, Ted and Jaime’s investigation and ambush work well enough to set up the storyline, although there’s only so much to be said for it so far. The issue mainly serves to reintroduce the characters, the setting, and the scarab’s connection to magic and Doctor Fate (who, despite the issue’s description, does not show up outside of flashbacks), but it also brings Jaime into conflict with the metahuman gangs of El Paso.
I love the concept of a metahuman gang. There’s a good bit of dialogue in there about how having meta-human powers tends to make people shift to either “good” or “evil” on the alignment scale, and while The Posse (the aforementioned gang) is still currently Chaotic Neutral, Ted’s hoping to see them shift to the side of good.
One thing I can’t tell from this issue is how much from the New 52 reboot remains canon in this new run, given everything that Jaime and his friends went through (including the scarab stabbing Paco and turning him into the “Blood Beetle,” one of the many reasons I stopped reading it back then). Personally, though, I wouldn’t particularly mind if most of that stain on the Blue Beetle’s legacy was wiped from continuity.
Final Verdict: 7.8 – A solid reintroduction for Jaime, with good character dynamics, a nice set of plot hooks, and some excellent action.