The hardest part of this whole relaunch for me is unclenching the previously established continuity and opening my mind to the "New 52" of it all. I've got to admit, it was a lot tougher on this book, featuring Jaime Reyes as the Blue Beetle, since the character was originally introduced just six years ago.
Fans of the old "Blue Beetle" series by Keith Giffen, John Rogers, Cully Hamner, and (eventually) Rafael Albuquerque will find a lot of familiar faces here: Jaime and his family, Brenda Del Vecchio, Paco, La Dama/Tia Amparo, and the Reach. New writer Tony Bedard gives each of these characters a chance to shine, do a little spin in front of the crowd, and take their place on stage. Bedard also introduces the conflict between the Reach and the Green Lantern Corps, and puts the scarab that powers Blue Beetle firmly on Earth.
Beyond that, Bedard brings in some new cast members, like Joey Gonzalez, set to be a high school jerk-face to Jaime Reyes like Flash Thompson was to poor puny Peter Parker. He also drops in a plethora of baddies, among them Warp, Plasmus, Phobia, and Brutale. Seasoned DC fans will be pleased to see the pages of this book so full of DC Universe characters, and newer readers coming to this book from Blue Beetle's appearances on "Batman: The Brave and the Bold" or "Smallville" will find a world filled with wild, exciting new characters.
Ig Guara and Ruy Jose set the bar high right from the first panel, which happens to occur on an alien world with a panicked crowd fleeing for their lives. The level of detail in this book is astonishing, from the freckles on Brenda's face to the method which the scarab joins to . . . well, that would be telling. Let's just say, the scarab fuses to someone and the visuals for that transformation are jaw-droppingly drawn and magnificently colored by Pete Pantazis. Pantazis does a good job with this whole book, propelling it into the hues and shades of superhero storytelling, but I wish he wouldn't just apply pattern to Paco's shirt. That maneuver is a tad distracting as it doesn't account for the shape of Paco's arms and shoulders under the shirt.
Rob Leigh brings the lettering feel from the last "Blue Beetle" series into this book, but this time out, the "scarab-speak" is nothing more than a fancier font. I'm personally hoping we get the scarab font as the scarab begins to interact more intensely with its host.
This is a fabulous book for a first issue, but I have one minor concern. The major characters in this title are all teens, and as such there are spots of humor that tends to be on the level with teens, including teen innuendo, which is every bit as bothersome on the printed page as it would be in real life. Sure, you could argue that it makes Bedard's characters more believable and real, but I could provide just as much of an argument that that pair of throwaway lines torpedoes what could have otherwise served as a strong all ages read. I'll leave it to you to decide, once you read this book, if you want to share it with younger readers or hold onto it for yourself. This is a great introduction to a wonderful world and a spectacular universe. Blue Beetle's back, and it's up to you to make sure he stays around this time.