WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for Heroes in Crisis #4 by Tom King, Clay Mann, Tomeu Morey and Clayton Cowles, on sale now.
Heroes in Crisis hasn't been much fun for most of DC's heroes.
In the ongoing storyline, Wally West, Arsenal and a dozen or so other heroes have apparently been killed in an attack on Sanctuary, a secret superhero trauma and recovery center. And while DC's biggest heroes have been busy trying to figure out the true identity of the Sanctuary killer and new revelations about Sanctuary, Heroes in Crisis #4 is notable for another, potentially more uplifting reason; namely, it marks the long-awaited return of Ted Kord as the Blue Beetle.
In this issue, Kord suits up once again in order to break Booster Gold, his best friend, out of a Justice League holding cell where the time traveling hero was being detained for his possible involvement in the massacre. While Kord has been operating in the background for the past few years, this is the first time he's has returned to his fan-favorite role as the Blue Beetle in the main DC Universe in almost a decade.
Despite having a heart condition that forced him into retiring from his active superhero duties, Kord frees Booster from superhero jail, and the pair set out to determine what really happened at Sanctuary. Of course, this also turns these former Justice League stalwarts into two of the most wanted men in the DC Universe.
Before he met Booster, Kord was created by Steve Ditko as an update of the original Blue Beetle for Charlton Comics in the 1960s. After DC absorbed Kord and Charlton's other heroes in the 1980s, he (like Booster Gold) starred in a short-lived series where he was depicted as an industrialist and inventor-turned-superhero, not unlike Marvel's Tony Stark, but on a smaller scale.
Shortly before their solo series were canceled, Blue Beetle and Booster Gold took on starring roles in Keith Giffen, J. M. DeMatteis and Kevin Maguire's Justice League International. In that light-hearted series, Beetle and Booster formed an enduring friendship that came to define them both and cemented the pair as fan-favorite characters.
Beetle and Booster left the League in the mid-1990s, and slipped into semi-obscurity until Ted was murdered by Maxwell Lord in 2005's Countdown to Infinite Crisis. In that story's wake, Lord, Ted's former Justice League International teammate, turned into one of DC's more threatening villains, and the teenage Jaime Reyes became the new Blue Beetle.
When Booster Gold evolved into a more serious time-traveling hero, he saved Ted's life, and the pair had a few more adventures together. However, Ted ultimately sacrificed his life to restore the timeline in the late 2000s, and his legacy cast a shadow over his teammates in stories like Justice League: Generation Lost.
Since then, Ted Kord has occupied an unclear place in the larger DC Universe. Although Booster Gold teased Ted's survival, his time as the Blue Beetle appeared to have been entirely erased by DC's New 52 reboot in 2012. Forever Evil, a 2013 crossover, seemingly confirmed that by depicting Ted as a young industrialist who had never been a hero.
In 2015, another reality's version of Ted Kord popped up as the Blue Beetle in the alternate future of Justice League 3000, and Ted's pre-New 52 Blue Beetle briefly appeared in the universe-smashing crossover Convergence.
When DC began partially restoring aspects of its pre-New 52 universe in DC Universe: Rebirth, Ted Kord was reintroduced as a mentor to Jaime Reyes' Blue Beetle. While Ted used his resources to support the new Beetle, he also revealed that he used to operate as the Blue Beetle before being forced to retire because of a heart condition. Although he makes a comment about death during a confessional moment in Heroes in Crisis, it's not clear if this incarnation of the character ever died, or if he was speaking more generally about superhero deaths.
While the details of his exploits in the DC Rebirth era haven't been fully elaborated on, he's clearly had some adventures with Booster Gold. As Batman reveals in Heroes in Crisis #4, Ted's company, Kord Industries, also helped the Justice League build the Hall of Justice, which is why he was able to help Booster escape so easily.
Given their jovial, wise-cracking natures, some of DC's other heroes dismiss Ted and Booster as jokes, and Ted even says that that's what Booster is known for in this issue. Despite that, Ted can usually hold his own as one of DC's smartest heroes, and Booster has saved the timestream on more than one occasion.
Even though Blue Beetle and Booster Gold might be underrated within the DC Universe, the two of them will probably end up playing a pivotal role in figuring out what really happened at the start of Heroes in Crisis. Blue Beetle's mission to clear Booster's name will likely continue in Heroes in Crisis #5, which is set to be released on Jan. 30, 2019.