12 April 2017

Faster than a DC Bullet: All-New All-Different DC, Part V: Blue Beetle: Shellshocked

Comic trade paperback, 140 pages
Published 2006 (contents: 2006)
Borrowed from the library
Read January 2017
Blue Beetle: Shellshocked

Writers: Keith Giffen & John Rogers
Pencillers: Cully Hamner, Cynthia Martin, Duncan Rouleau, Kevin West
Inkers: Cully Hamner, Phil Moy, Duncan Rouleau, Jack Purcell
Colorists: David Self, Guy Major
Letterers: Phil Balsman, Pat Brosseau

Many people were mad and/or sad when the Ted Kord Blue Beetle was killed off in "Countdown to Infinite Crisis." But if you ask me, it was all worth it because it gave us the new Blue Beetle, Jaime Reyes. Jaime is an ordinary Latino high schooler who discovers the Blue Beetle scarab sometime after the death of Ted Kord (as seen in Infinite Crisis itself). The first couple chapters of this volume alternate between Jaime's life leading up to his involvement in the fight against Brother Eye in Infinite Crisis, and his return to Earth a year later, apparently during the timeframe of 52. Giffen, Rogers, and Hamner do great work here. The opening fight between Jaime and Guy Gardner (Guy is drawn to fight the Blue Beetle, but doesn't know why) is dark and intense, while Jaime's interactions with his friends (Paco, who learned six languages just to insult people in on-line FPSs, and Brenda, whose Dad hits her and wants to go to law school) are fun. Jaime wants to make extra money working at his dad's garage, but his dad wants a better life for him.

Really, I could have scanned almost any page of Jaime/Brenda/Paco dialogue.
from Blue Beetle vol. 8 #1 (art by Cully Hamner)

Much like Ms. Marvel a decade later, this is the perfect archetypal teen superhero comic: humor, good characters, fun dialogue, a little bit of angst but not too much. Jaime feels like a real person with real friends; take this exchange between a villain and Jaime's friends while Jaime fights a tree monster:
Gotta love an over-educated villain.
from Blue Beetle vol. 8 #4 (art by Cully Hamner)

I laughed a lot throughout this book, which is the mark of (one of) the kind of superhero comic I look for. Giffen & Rogers recreate the classic formulas while also providing new variations: I like that Jaime's armor speaks to him in an alien language, and that there are aspects of it he doesn't entirely understand. I like the sense of a superheroic universe this story builds up, instead of being an ordinary universe with superheroes grafted on: La Dama, the local crimelord, doesn't just kidnap people, but specifically magic users, and the gang Jaime's friend Paco falls into is entirely made up of people with powers-- but they need the powerless Paco because sometimes they need someone who won't attract attention. There's a real sense of a world that's a lot like our own (I like that the story takes place in El Paso and not a fake city, and that almost all the characters are Latino), but not like ours in some logical ways. There's also some good twists on the usual formula-- Paco's gang has some redeeming value, the Blue Beetle comes to an understanding with La Dama, and I especially like that Jaime's family and friends know what he is right from the off. There's no lying to your loved ones stuff here.

That didn't take long for them to figure out.
from Blue Beetle vol. 8 #3 (art by Cynthia Martin & Phil Moy)

This is a winning mixture for a superhero comic, and I hope to see it continue from strength to strength.

Next Week: Another new old hero-- the All New Atom debuts in My Life in Miniature!

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