Each weekday, Tim will take a look at what we know about each of the upcoming 52 new comics from the September DC relaunch, one series at a time. Today: BLUE BEETLE!
The Concept and Characters: Writer Tony Bedard has referred to the Jaime Reyes Blue Beetle as “Spider-Man meets Green Lantern,” and that’s a pretty clear indicator of the direction in which he plans to take this series. That high-concept, though, sounds an awful lot like Marvel’s 1976 hero, Nova, a struggling teenager (like Spidey) who inherited super-powers from a dying alien (like GL). So Bedard might as well have said, “he’s like Nova meets…Nova.”
Yet it is a sound concept for a superhero, with the self-doubting hero granted amazing, alien powers. You get the family drama, the street-level conflict, and the potential for cosmic adventure.
It’s a mix that worked well in Jaime Reyes’s first tango, in the pages of the previous Blue Beetle series, which ran from 2006-2009, before disappearing due to low sales. Okay, maybe it didn’t work that well commercially, but it was quite a good comic (even if few readers paid attention), particularly when it was written by John Rogers and drawn by Rafael Albuquerque.
And the character has popped up on the animated Batman: The Brave and the Bold and Smallville since his cancellation, giving him a higher profile than when he last launched a series, when he was a mere spin-off from an event that he wasn’t an integral part of.
He’s also a legacy character, even if he’s not related to any of the men who previously dared to call themselves the Blue Beetle. That legacy played an important role in the previous series, but it wasn’t so bogged down in continuity that it blocked new readers from enjoying the adventures of young Reyes and his pals. Still, the Golden Age Blue Beetle, published by Fox Comics (later acquired by DC), and his “magic” scarab are part of the foundation myth of this new Blue Beetle, even if the truth about the scarab turns out to be more alien than domestic.
And the tragic death of the Silver Age Blue Beetle, published by Charlton Comics (later acquired by DC as well), still lingers over Jaime Reyes even though Ted Kord died well before the new Beetle debuted. It’s possible that the relaunched series may jettison the more somber elements of the Blue Beetle’s past in favor of straightforward action, but no doubt Ted Kord’s memory will be too strong to ignore for long.
As a character, though, this incarnation of the Blue Beetle is a good one, and he seems likely to appeal to a wider audience than many of DC’s characters, because, hey, Spider-Man meets Green Lantern. People get that.
The Creative Team: Besides the character himself, artist Ig Guara is of interest as well. Guara hasn’t done anything high-profile in mainstream comics yet, but his work on the all-ages Pet Avengers books at Marvel has been astonishingly good. Delicate yet dynamic. And though his recent contribution to the Flashpoint event, a one-shot entitled Grodd of War, was overshadowed by the perceived racism underlying the concept of the comic, he proved that he could pull pathos even from a maniacal talking gorilla. Guara is an excellent fit for a Blue Beetle series.
Writer Tony Bedard has been around for a while, starting at Valiant in the early 1990s and ending up as a second-tier DC writer for most of the last decade. He’ll rarely surprise you, but he’ll deliver clean, straightforward comic book stories every month.
Recommendation: Wait for the trade. Bedard isn’t a weak link, by any means, but his participation in the series doesn’t demand that you rush out to the shop on Wednesdays. His most recent work, particularly R.E.B.E.L.S., reads much better in bigger chunks, and I suspect Blue Beetle will be the same. Plus, you can get a larger dose of Ig Guara that way, and that’s always a good thing.
Tim Callahan writes about comics for Tor.com, Comic Book Resources, Back Issue magazine, and his own Geniusboy Firemelon blog.