I know that someone out there is going to read this next sentence and laugh at me, but here goes: I think that John Rogers’ run on Blue Beetle is one of the best superhero comics of the last decade. And it wasn’t grim, it wasn’t gritty, it wasn’t ultraviolent. It was a smartly-told book about a fundamentally good kid trying to live up to the impossible standards he set himself. All that in a book that also just happened to include evil exploding electro-magnetic penguin creatures. When I heard that Jaime Reyes would be the star of Blue Beetle in the new 52, I got very excited; when I read the first issue, my excitement was a bit dampened.
Bedard seemed to be telling a very, very similar story to the one Rogers told – Jaime Reyes, a Latino teen living in New Mexico, finds a mysterious Blue Scarab that attaches to his back, transforming him into the ultra-powerful Blue Beetle. However, unbeknownst to him (or the crime lord aunt of his best friend Brenda, who also wants the scarab for herself), the scarab is actually a sentient weapon crafted by an ultra-advanced society dedicated to conquering Earth. The difference between the two was that Bedard ditched the ‘legacy’ angle and told it as straight action-drama. Three issues in, Bedard has maintained that voice and idea and turned it into a solid teen adventure story (fans of Spider-Man, reach for your wallets), but it still feels like a remake, rather than a fresh idea.
Ig Guera’s art is a very good fit for the book – less cartoony than the artists on the previous book, but exaggerated enough to have recognizable, solid facial expressions and body language – though he isn’t given a lot to do here. Still, slowly but surely, Guera and Bedard are making the book their own. Including the Reach was probably a mistake, particularly bringing them in this soon, but I’m hoping they will just condense Jaime’s fairly epic origin adventure into a short couple arcs before taking the book in a more novel direction. What’s here is solid, though, and could definitely serve as a good introduction to a great character.
– Cal C.