As DC's Year of the Villain continues, the Batman Who Laughs has continued to extend his insidious reach, corrupting a whole host of fan-favorite DC Universe heroes to create his own twisted version of the Justice League. Among these is Jaime Reyes, the teenage Blue Beetle. Now, the superhero is starring in The Infected: Scarab #1, the latest in a line of one-shot specials spotlighting each of the heroes corrupted by the evil Batman from the Dark Multiverse.
Written by Dennis "Hopeless" Hallum and illustrated by Freddie E. Williams II, the issue has Jaime contending with the aftermath of his recent encounter with the Batman Who Laughs, who infected the alien Scarab embedded within him that gives him his powers. As the corrosive influence of the tainted Scarab spreads, Jaime's personal life and relationships with his friends and allies all become strained. This culminates in an explosive showdown with a familiar enemy that quickly goes off the rails when the true extent of Jaime's infection is revealed in a horrifying display.
Hallum structures this issue like a horror story rather than traditional superhero fare, from the surreal opening sequence to the terrifying mood to the sheer body horror as Jaime comes to terms with the evil within him, which increasingly rages forth with devastating consequences. If the latest incarnation of Blue Beetle was about addressing one's potential as they come of age, Hallum's story is about twisting that trope into something appropriately sinister. He includes Kafka-esque flourishes coupled with super-powered throwdowns to keep the action moving along.
That said, Hallum does take the time to weave in more familiar elements of Jaime's world in the DC Rebirth era, including his renewed connection to Ted Kord, his supporting cast and a returning villain that served as Blue Beetle's greatest foe in his relaunched solo series at the beginning of the publishing initiative. The narrower, more personal focus works, though readers looking for the corrupted Blue Beetle's role in the Batman Who Laughs greater plans may be a bit disappointed; this is more the story of a teenage superhero transforming into his worst nightmare.
This nightmarish setup is elevated by Williams' artwork, joined by colorist Jeremy Colwell. The art team captures the horrifying imagery before easing readers into a more friendly, familiar world as Jaime attempts to dismiss his initial fears about his infection. However, as the darkness within Jaime steadily comes roaring to the surface, the dark, horror-tinged imagery similarly escalates to great effect -- a standard superhero battle quickly takes a frightening turn in one of the more grotesque sequences in any of The Infected specials. Meanwhile, the inner torment of Jamie and scary reveals of his corruption are well paced as Jaime's friends realize something is horribly wrong with their high-flying classmate.
The introduction of the Dark Multiverse and the Batman Who Laughs has led the DC Universe to lean into the horror genre as its various villains and corrupted heroes have taken the spotlight. Dennis "Hopeless" Hallum and Freddie E. Williams II's special one-shot focusing on the infected Blue Beetle takes full advantage of this premise and genre shift, with all the classic aplomb and pacing of a good horror story, from shocking transformations and the terrifying implications of a direct confrontation with one's own dark impulses and sinister nature. More of a character study than its bombastic counterparts, the latest one-shot explores consequence with insidious glee while twisting another fan-favorite hero into an ally of the evil, alternate Batman.
The Infected: Scarab #1 is on sale now.