Under the pen of John Rogers, Blue Beetle quickly became THE super hero title on the shelves, at least in the hearts of critics and a small-but-loyal fanbase. No other title could match it in terms of the supporting cast, the dialogue, or the sheer sense of fun that never was never condescending and in no way sacrificing the build-up to its epic tone. When it was announced that Rogers was leaving, fans were worried that it would devolve into gimmick and fridging. First came the gimmick, with the all-Spanish issue that was still surprisingly pretty natural, and then, worries mounted – the writer behind the infamous Amazons Attack! was taking over. However, he left after a pair of surprisingly heartfelt issues, bringing on Matthew Sturges.
Boundaries collects the bulk of Sturges’ run, and despite the fact that it deals with illegal immigration, it is a surprisingly solid follow-up to Rogers’ beloved run, hardly missing a beat when it comes to the kind of clever adventures and solid character moments fans have come to expect. Sturges smartly decides against coming to any sort of moralistic resolution on the issue of illegal immigration, opting instead to bring up the vast complexities of the issue and allow the reader to make his own judgment while the action and dialogue continue on as usual. Despite dealing with Issues, it isn’t an afterschool special. It’s just an action comic about a teenage boy saving the world… WITH SCIENCE!
The art is largely by series regular Rafael Albuquerque, who has spent the whole series improving, and when they do bring in a replacement (Coejho) for two of the middle issues of the arc, his style fits well with the series as a whole. Both artists are a little cartoony and a little too broad at times, but both artists capture the El Paso heat, the fluidity of the action sequences, and more – though neither manages to capture the fear and poverty of the worst parts of Mexico, and neither manages to instill any semblance of menace in the villains of the book.
Blue Beetle is not a complex book, and never aspires to be so. Better yet, it deals with traditional superheroics without the wink and the nod, the ironic air of superiority that most ‘fun’ comics have. The series started off slowly, but it built fast, and Boundaries should reassure the fans who weren’t on the monthly that Sturges was an excellent choice to send Jaime off in style.