Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Review: Blue Beetle #1 (2011)

Blue Beetle #1 is one of those titles that certain diehard fans have been demanding for the last few years which implies that in theory this should be one of the bright spots of the DCnU. Sure a lot of back-story and character development has been lost.  Sure Starfire has basically become little more than fan service.  Sure there are tons of characters, a lot of them women, who are mysteriously absent from the comics.   At least we DC answered our request for   to get his ongoing title back, right?   Right?

Jamie’s last book was somewhat sabotaged by the fact that DC had a few months prior published Countdown to Infinite Crisis wherein the former Blue Beetle Ted Kord, a character often thought of as a joke, was written as an inanely badass hero that made many fans who didn’t care about him at all beforehand suddenly declare him to be one of their favorite characters (It was that well written)…only for him to be murdered in that same issue and replaced by Reyes not long after.  Understandably pissed off at DC for playing with their emotions a lot of fans (Myself included) refused to embrace the new Blue Beetle which undoubtedly hurt sales.  The problem?  The new Blue Beetle was actually a really awesome comic.  D’oh!  Jamie was a likable, responsible, and realistic character who ended up being a very unique type of comic hero with a very strong supporting cast and the book ultimately downright fun superhero action.  His relationship with his family and friends was different from every other teenage superhero history because very soon after he acquired his super powers he was instantly teleported away for a whole year causing his loved ones to think he had died or possibly even simply abandoned them.  The struggled of regaining their trust and, in some ways their love, played a huge role in th e expertly written drama of the book.  To be frank Blue Beetle was one of the best books of the 2000s, probably THE best book you never bothered reading, and if people like me and probably you as well had just picked it up when it was still around life in general would have been better for us all.

But hey, on paper we have a second chance to make it right. This was my main motivation to pick this book up because I didn’t want to live with the shame I’ve been holding these past few years of not supporting one of the best superhero creations in history.  Anyway this book is titled “Metamorphosis Part One” and is written by Tony Bedard with artwork by IG Guara (Pencils) and Ruy José (Ink).If you couldn’t tell by now this has been one of my most anticipated books of the reboot.

Full review after the jump.

Pretty sure Blue Beetle is about to eat me
Jamie Reyes is a typical high school kid living in El Paso, Texas whose biggest concern is that he wants to go to his best friend Brenda’s quinceañera.  However his parents refuse to let him attend due to their concerns over Brenda’s aunt, a very wealthy women in town who is more feared than respected.  However unbeknownst to Jamie he is about to make contact with a very old, and very evil, artifact that will change is life forever…

I liked the artwork in this comic and I think it’s one of the strongest I have read in this reboot so far.   I have nothing negative to say about it whatsoever save for really tiny nitpicking issues that I don’t think is even worth mentioning in this review.   I also liked that (Most) of the familiar characters from the old book are present and accounted for.  Far too often writers seem to forget that the most important element of the superhero book is having a good supporting cast because otherwise the main character will usually feel very flat.  The best thing about the old book was how Jamie interacted with his friends and family and the fact that they show up here seemingly mostly the same (Hard to tell in one issue) is encouraging.  Also as far as introductions go this isn’t a bad issue but, because the scarab (The source of Jamie’s powers) doesn’t come into his possession until the very end, we technically don’t get to meet Blue Beetle this month which is pretty lame.   Still if you’re new to Blue Beetle it’s a good starting on point and you’ll probably like it, which ultimately is what DC really wants.

(An alien Blue Beetle reacts to Red Hood and the Outlaws)
But there are numerous problems here.   For one the fact that he doesn’t gain his powers until the end of the book means that (Excluding the prologue) there’s not really a lot going on in this book. Now I suppose that in story set up like this we don’t have to have our hero up set up in costume from the get go so long as what we do get is interesting and in this case that would depend on Jamie and his supporting cast.   However I really didn’t find myself interested in any of these guys at all.  We learn a little bit about them but in general they come off somewhat two-dimensional.  Again this is a first issue so that probably won’t be the status quo but for this specific book I was bored throughout the whole thing.  The one thing I should never feel while reading a book like this is bored.

As far as new readers might go this might be all there is to be annoyed at but as a fan of the old book I was ultimately disappointed with a number of things in this book.   As you might have noticed from the story synopsis DC has decided to completely toss out Jamie’s old continuity and start from scratch which really sucks if you’re one of these guys who have been waiting for the further adventures of Blue Beetle.  As such we are being “treated” to reading the same stories we already read less than five years ago!   And judging by what I read here they won’t be as interesting this time around.   How could they?  Those old books were a perfect storm of superhero comics.

Aw man, that's the version of the character I wanted...
For example Jamie’s origin is probably pretty similar to his original one except that he probably won’t be missing for a year (We’ll see next issue) which was such an important plot point to developing his supporting cast so well.  i It’s a crucial plot element that I really hate that we lost it.  Also, according to an interview with Tony Bedard in the back of the book it sounds like Jamie will be keeping his identity a secret from his family and possibly his friends which kind of make some think that Bedard doesn’t really get what made the first series so special.   It sounds like a little thing but take in mind of the typical tropes and cliché in superhero comics such as the “secret from friends and family” thing.  Blue Beetle was such a unique story with that dynamic challenge and it really made the book what it was.  With it gone I’m slightly afraid that this will end up being yet another “classic” Spider-Man copycat book (Young hero…WITH PROBLEMS!!!!).  Nothing in this issue put me at ease in this regard.

I’m not sure who this book was written for. On paper DC released this book to give Jamie fans their character back but the title is so different, and dare I say “less fun” than the original that I really don’t think most fans of Jamie would really be able to get into, save for maybe the most superficial fans who just want to see characters they like no matter what they’re doing or saying.   Because frankly, with years of character development form his own book, Teen Titans, and Justice League: Generation Lost now removed this simply isn’t the same character.  That said if you’re a new reader who doesn’t have all that baggage this is a perfectly serviceable.  It’s not a great book but it’s not a bad one either.  It’s mostly just there but I do plan on buying the next few issues at least to see the first story arc.  It’s better written than Mister Terrific #1 but miles behind  Batgirl #1 and Batwoman #1.

I give Blue Beetle #1 3 out of 5 Adorable Pandas.


-Good to see the old gang together again

-Artwork is very solid


-This book is not for old fans of Blue Beetle

-The book is a bit dull

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