How many comic books did you read this week that pit the protagonist against three separate foes in three distinct scenes? How many of those books continued to explore the abilities of the title character and define the supporting cast around him? One more question for you: how many of those books delivered tremendously beautiful, energetic art?
I’ve read some good books this week, but “Blue Beetle” is the only one from the stack that can claim to produce on all of the questions I pose before you. Holding his best friend’s life in his hands — literally — Jaime Reyes struggles to figure out why he got the power of the Blue Beetle and how he can control it so he doesn’t hurt any more of his friends or family.
With that conflict, Tony Bedard pits Jaime against the scarab, Khaji-Da, that gives him the power. That’s a fresh take on inner conflicts, as this struggle is both internal and external at the same time. Bedard recently spoke to CBR about this issue, spilling the beans that Beetle would be on the receiving end of an expanding rogues gallery. That expansion happens in triplicate in this issue as Jaime makes a lifelong foe out of an opponent he faced last issue, finds that those around him aren’t exactly what they seem to be, and is completely oblivious to a jaw-dropping threat revealed on this issue’s final page of story. Bedard fills this issue with action, character development, and powerful interactions, before topping it off with a humdinger of a cliffhanger.
Penciler Ig Guara, inker J. P. Mayer, and colorist Pete Pantazis hit the visuals note for note throughout this issue. From Jaime’s sullen expression as he silently blames himself for Paco’s predicament to Brenda’s more obvious agony regarding the same, Guara draws real teenagers coping with real life. Of course, the situations of that life have been foisted on them by an extraterrestrial weapon bent on subjugating the Earth, but the artistic team handles the visuals of that with equal aplomb. The Blue Beetle — a character solidly planted in science fiction — encounters magic in this issue. That magic is given vibrancy through the page layout and the colors. The threat to Jaime’s life is very real, very foreign and very intense.
My one gripe about this issue is that there is a subplot threaded throughout this series to date. In this issue that subplot gets flung five months into the future, courtesy of an editor’s box announcement. Not only is the subplot put on hold; it is transferred over to another title! Does it have a devastating effect on this issue? No. It does, however, seem odd to be included here only to have it filed away for sometime in June or July.
Aside from that quirk, this issue is darn near perfect. Bedard’s writing is strong, Guara’s art is stunning, and the characters are human, exciting and fun. There’s more crammed into this single issue of “Blue Beetle” than in some collected editions of other books. And there’s plenty more to come. Jaime Reyes’ world changed when the scarab fused itself to his spine. We’re lucky enough to be invited along for the adventures that follow.