When Jaime’s typical teenager life gets thrown upside down, he becomes part of a far reaching intergalactic problem.
Writer: Tony Bedard
Artist: Ig Guara
What They Say:
It’s not easy being Jaime Reyes. He has to deal with high school, family and all the drama that comes with being a teenager. Also, he’s linked to a powerful scarab created by an alien race known as the Reach who seek to subjugate planets – or annihilate them. But can this teen hero turn an alien weapon of mass destruction into a force for good? And can he protect the scarab from super villains that would use it for their own nefarious purposes? Writer Tony Bedard (GREEN LANTERN CORPS, GREEN LANTERN: NEW GUARDIANS) and artist Ig Guara bring you the newest adventures of Blue Beetle!
Coming into the Blue Beetle at this stage of the game is certainly interesting. I’ve long liked the character, but my allegiance has been with the Ted Kord Blue Beetle that I grew up with, both in his own series and semi-seriousness as well as the absolute blast he was during a certain run of the Justice League. When they removed him back in the 90’s and introduced the character of Jaime as the new Blue Beetle, I just couldn’t get into it and never connected with the character in the years since. So color me surprised that I found him to be a lot of fun when I started to see him taking a more prominent role in the Young Justice: Invasion series and got into the storyline that involved him there. My Beetle-lore is mostly restricted to the Ted Kord stuff which makes coming into this book more fun than I expected since it is largely fresh, fun and well written and drawn.
The scope of the Beetle Scarab is a good part of the foundation here as we see that they’re using over the centuries by a group called the Hivemasters. They use the Scarab as a form of control where one is sent to a populated planet which it then conquers and dominates, allowing The Reach to come and consume its resources over a few years before nothing is left there. What we see early on here is something that happened centuries ago where a number of Scarab’s were sent off by a Beetle called Khaji-Dai, but they were largely lost through the interference of a Green Lantern Corps member who makes it clear they wish they had eliminated The Reach and its infectious nature ages ago. What we do discover though is that this particular Scarab ended up on Earth, damaged, and made its way down through the centuries to where it is now. A priceless rarity that an influential woman named Cardenas has paid an immense amount of money for and is just waiting for it to be transported to her.
It’s arrival is unfortunately timed as she’s about to host a coming of age party for her niece, Brenda, who is waiting on the arrival of her friends Paco and Jaime. Jaime wasn’t supposed to go because his parents can’t stand Cardenas and her money and influence, but he’s had the hots for Brenda for an age, much like Paco. Yet Paco is the one who, being the bigger of the two and more confident, will make the move on her. The unfortunate problem comes in that Paco and Jaime are on the way to the party and come across some supervillains that are attempting to get it from the transporters and they get caught up in it. And the situation goes worst for Jaime as he ends up being bonded to the Scarab when it activates and we discover that it is a lethal, conqueror type device that wants to eliminate all threats. Jaime’s confusion helps to prevent some of the worst from happening, but a lot of the book is him trying to ease down the Scarab’s intense desire to kill everything to achieve its mission, which it doesn’t reveal to Jaime at this point. It’s just more interested in trying to establish control.
Not surprisingly, a lot of the book deals with Jaime’s confusion about this, which runs in parallel to the supervillains trying to find Paco in order to find Jaime since they want the Scarab back for their boss. And of course Cardenas is intent on getting it back in a big way. With Paco getting attacked multiple times over two days and Jaime intervening along the way, there’s a good bit of destruction that lands and a better understanding of the suits capabilities. The fun is in watching how Jaime tries to deal with it as he is a classic Peter Parker kind of kid who just wants things to go back to normal but will do what he has to in order to survive, though he pushes back regularly against the lethal option. But he finds himself in conflict with the suit so often that it leads to some moments where progress is hard and he has to give in to its combat side. The internal dialogue between the two has some good bits to it and the dialogue for the Scarab is one note but manages to work quite well.
There’s nothing in the way of a crossover here, which is appreciated as it keeps the focus mainly on Jaime and the situation he’s dealing with. We get a good introduction of the cast but also the expansion into The Reach with a look at Khaji-Dai and the one he’s worked with for the last few centuries, as that gives us a tie in to his past but doesn’t make it hugely important in the forefront. Tony Bedard does pretty good here in making the book flow as one consistent story without too many weird or awkward jumps between issues and he makes the characters all accessible, be they teenagers or adults. He even left me more interested in the supervillains than I’ve been with many other relaunch books. What also helps is that Ig Guara does a really good job with the artwork here, giving it a particular sense of style at times, aided by the colorist, while still coming across as mostly traditional in its approach. It’s got a polished feel overall but has that raw and earthy touch with its detail and line work to make it feel real and lived in, especially compared to some of the bigger and glossier series.
The opening volume doesn’t have much in the way of surprises to it as we get a full on relaunch of the Jaime Reyes Blue Beetle. The past of the name itself isn’t brought up, but we do get a bit of an origin story for the Scarab itself which makes things interesting as it ties to The Reach. The origin story doesn’t stand out in a big way with what it does, but it does it all competently and with a lot of accessibility to it that I wasn’t sure would be there. Though the book doesn’t knock it out of the park as it is just an origin story here and doesn’t truly go big in any particular way, it does it all with ease and polish, making it an engaging read overall. While I couldn’t get into previous incarnations of the character, I found myself more interested because of the Young Justice: Invasion cartoon and that made me a lot more interested and engaged in this book. Definitely an easy recommendation for people to sample something that doesn’t reach big into the DC Universe or require a lot of back story knowledge.