Writers: Keith Giffen and John Rogers
Artist: Cully Hamner
Publisher: DC Comics
DC's newest teen hero has a world of trouble on his hands, as the Blue Beetle faces off against wild-eyed Green Lantern Guy Gardner on the moon. As Jaime Reyes struggles to learn the ropes as a superhero, his life at school and home refuses to give him a break. So what happens when these worlds collide?
The first issue of Blue Beetle contains some significant continuity problems, both in terms of internal narrative and with the comic's place in the DC universe as a whole. The story jumps back and forth between the fight with Guy Gardner and an "origin story" on earth. The confusion comes in that it's very difficult to tell when these events occur in relation to each other; it's not even clear that the Earthbound scenes are flashback of any remarkable amount of time until Jamie discovers the magical scarab, revealing that he has not yet become Blue Beetle from the Earth-scene's point of view. (The caption says "El Paso. Earlier." which could be taken to mean "Earlier today/this week.") The vague timeline also brings into question whether this title takes place "One Year Later"—the cover mysteriously lacks that logo, though it does advertise an association with Infinite Crisis. The origin scene definitely takes place during Infinite Crisis #4, but when does Jaime fight Guy Gardner on the moon? Blue Beetle displays an unfamiliarity with his armor's ability that would suggest, if he's already been at it for a year, the Scarab's got a pretty steep learning curve. On the other hand, if this series will run concurrently with the 52 timeline, that introduces a whole other series of headaches.
So with complaints stemming from the very structure of the story, how does Blue Beetle #1 merit a rating? Simple: the human element. Jaime's friends are a blast. Teenagers who act like teenagers, and nerdy teenagers at that. "The Swedes are filthy spawn campers" might just be the funniest line of the year, to that coveted 18-to-35 geek demographic. But for all the humor, this is not "Bwa-ha-ha;" not only are the laughs not as over-the-top, but the comedy isn't even the same flavor. In introducing a whole new cast, Giffen and Rogers have done an admirable job of introducing a good deal of personal and interpersonal conflict, which would have been completely undercut had the team gone with the famous JLI-style laughs. For as good of a chuckle as discussions of spawn campers and Klingona may be, the writers serve up punch-in-the-gut pathos, as well: in the midst of snappy banter, Brenda's line "Fathers do" completely knocks the wind out of you.
Unclassifiable surprise: "pendejo?" Can you say "pendejo" in an all-ages comic?
Unclassifiable surprise #2: any story named after a New Order song is on my good side right from the start.
Stylistic notes aside, Rogers and Giffen open up two fascinating mysteries that will likely drive Blue Beetle's early career: a creepy woman who describes Jaime as "one of us" (among other weirdness) and Guy's irrational rage at the mere sight of the new Beetle. Mostly, though, I'm looking forward to the further adventures of Jaime, Brenda, and Paco, which probably means one will end up stuffed in a refrigerator before issue 3. But there you go.
A fun, lively story with a touch of high drama, Blue Beetle overcomes its faults to emerge as a valuable addition to DC's lineup. Beautifully illustrated by Cully Hamner, this series is definitely one to watch.
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