Keith Giffen may have helped to initiate this series, but once John Rogers took over as solo writer, “Blue Beetle” blossomed into one of the best new series in years. It’s one of those rare comics that contains enough depth and intrigue to sustain the interest of a life-long DC reader, and it also works as an all-ages comic. My seven-year-old son doesn’t have much interest in anything other than video games and an occasional “Power Pack” issue, but he loves John Rogers and Rafael Albuquerque’s “Blue Beetle”. And so do I.
Issue #25 is the culmination of everything Rogers and company have put into motion from the very beginning of the series. It’s the story of Jaime Reyes’ final battle with the Reach, an alien race with a long-term plan for domination of the Earth. In many ways, it feels like the end of a 25-issue series, but it’s really just the beginning. It serves to establish Jaime Reyes as the definitive Blue Beetle of his generation, while paying respect to the legacy of those who came before, and those who will come after.
One of the reasons this issue, and this whole series, works so well, is that Rogers constantly surprises the reader while still hitting all the right story beats. The Reach’s plan is not your typical aliens-trying-to-take-over-the-world plot. They have devised a slow-roasting strategy, in which the population of Earth will begin to lose their will and submit, after hundreds of years of manipulation. In a DC Universe populated by alien races, the Reach is unique in their ability to persuade the humans of their friendliness, while at the same time deploying a complex attack on the human psyche. Jaime Reyes, practically alone in his knowledge of the Reach’s sinister plans, must save the planet on his own, with a little help from his friends.
All of these complicated machinations aren’t revealed through endless exposition (as we’ve seen used to abominable effect in “Countdown”), but slowly, piece by piece, issue by issue. Everything that has occurred in the series so far has led to this final confrontation, even the apparently unrelated guest appearances by Batman or Guy Gardner. Those guest-star stories seemed to be about Jaime Reyes’s growth as a character and his relationship with the heroes of his world. And they were about that, but they also set up events that would lead to the climax in issue #25, and most of us didn’t even notice.
Rogers (with the help of the wonderfully expressive Rafael Albuquerque) pulls it all together and includes all the right moments to turn the first twenty-five issues of the series into something that should be read as a single, epic tale. It’s the type of comic that DC can be proud of, and if you haven’t been picking this series up regularly, you really need to go back and get all the issues you’ve missed.