Tony Bedard continues to light up the world of Jaime Reyes and in doing so is forcing me to brush up on my "Spanglish" (for the record, I really don't like that term, it just seems disrespectful). The characters of this book - the El Paso resident characters, such as the Reyes family, Brenda, Paco, and Amparo Cardenas - bounce in and out of Spanish phrases so quickly and frequently that I could see how that might be a distraction or deterrent for folks trying this book out. Honestly, though, the only Spanish I know is what I've gleaned from Steve Martin's stand-up routine in the 1970s (yup, I'm old) and from watching "Dora the Explorer" with my kids, and I don't find it to be overwhelming at all. Bedard's story and Ig Guara's artwork convey the message quite clearly, regardless of the language.
Continuing the story from the two previous issues, but not enslaved by that story, this issue offers up a nice sample of what readers can expect from "Blue Beetle": super comic book science, crazy villains, wonderfully human supporting characters, and fun surprises.
This book is positioned to be the Spider-Man-like title of the relaunch, right down to the entomological themed protagonist. Much like Peter Parker (or Miles Morales), Jaime Reyes is a typical teen that doesn't ask for the powers he receives. Unlike Peter Parker, however, Jaime falls right into the thick of things as opposing forces collide on top of and around him, all clamoring for the scarab (which is never actually called a "scarab" in this title, simply a "beetle") that has given Jaime his powers.
Those forces are the mysterious Brotherhood, staffed by Phobia, Warp, and Plasmus, all of whom are familiar to long-time DC readers. They've all gotten a goose and a new shine in the relaunch. Matching them against the Blue Beetle immediately adds credence to the character and sets up the foundation for a growing rogues collection. Unfortunately for Jaime, he's also got to worry about his gal pal's Mafioso aunt and her crew who want the scarab, not to mention the evil world-conquering race that created the scarab.
There's a lot going on in this book, but Bedard makes it all happen so smoothly that none of the stories feel overwhelming or more important than the others. They're all happening in parallel, and it makes the backdrop for the Blue Beetle that much more exciting.
"Exciting" is a nice word to throw at the art for this book, too. With art that's supremely detailed, highly stylized, and very energetic, Ig Guara is putting up a visual spectacle that needs to be seen to be believed and once seen, begs to be studied and enjoyed on more levels than simply, "Yeah, that's good comic art." Here's a free sample for your eyes, my friends. Enjoy it. The art doesn't simply end with Guara's work on the page, as Guara is ably accompanied by J. P. Mayer on inks and Pete Pantazis on colors. The trio blend smoothly into what is simply one of the best-looking books of this relaunch.
I sampled all fifty-two of the titles when DC relaunched them and have since been trying to pare down that bushel to a more manageable bunch. Each and every time that I sit down to do that, "Blue Beetle" makes it into the top ten. It's a fun book with classic comic sensibilities and magnificent art, and should be top ten all over the place. The stories are entertaining and the characters relatable. If you're finding the relaunch overwhelming and looking for that foothold in the new DCU, this just may be the book for you.