SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for “Blue Beetle: Rebirth” #1, on sale now.
You can’t keep insects out of your house forever, and you can’t keep a good hero down. “Blue Beetle: Rebirth” #1 covers both of those bases, with Jaime Reyes once again starring in his own title after a three and a half year absence. As a character who generally manages to maintain an upbeat and fun tone in his comics, this is a book that fits into the overall hopeful message of DC Comics‘ Rebirth.
Welcome Back, Jaime
Jaime Reyes initially appeared as the Blue Beetle in 2006’s “Infinite Crisis,” before immediately moving into his own 36-issue series, initially helmed by Keith Giffen, John Rogers, and Cully Hamner. In his pre-“Flashpoint” origin, Jaime was a high school teen in El Paso, Texas, who found the original Blue Beetle’s magic scarab when it fell from the sky. Touching it fused Jaime with the artifact, and the newly-minted superhero helped the good guys find Brother Eye’s hidden satellite in his very first adventure, before accidentally vanishing for an entire year on his way home.
Jaime quickly learned that the scarab was not mystical at all, but rather alien technology from an alien race named the Reach. While most of their scarabs were parasitic in nature and able to subsume those who bonded with them, Jaime’s had been damaged, allowing him to maintain his own will and identity. Over the course of his series, he not only successfully fought off a Reach invasion, but formed a true partnership with his scarab. More importantly, “Blue Beetle” gave Jaime a strong supporting cast of friends and family. They were often integral to the stories, serving as both obstacles and allies. The end result was a series that harkened back to the early issues of “Amazing Spider-Man,” with a teen hero juggling superhero and mundane problems, but accentuated by having friends to confide in and receive assistance from.
That overall feeling continued into the 2011 DC Comics reboot, with a new series that lasted a year and a half. In this new continuity, there’s no connection to past superheroes with Jaime’s scarab, and it’s presented as purely mechanical right from the get-go and a damaged artifact of the Reach. Still present, though, are Jaime’s family and friends. Paco and Brenda serve as his confidants (and try to cover for Jaime’s absences if a superhero call of duty happens during high school hours), even as Jaime hides his secret identity from his parents and his sister Milagro.
Blue Beetle, Meet… Blue Beetle
“Blue Beetle: Rebirth” #1 follows up on a scene we saw in “DC Universe: Rebirth” #1; namely, the introduction of Ted Kord as Jaime’s mentor. The Ted Kord Blue Beetle was originally part of the Charlton Comics publishing line back in the 1960s, before being purchased by DC Comics in the mid-’80s. Ted Kord (and the rest of the Charlton characters, including Captain Atom, the Question and Nightshade) became part of the DC Universe as a result of “Crisis on Infinite Earths,” introduced as an adult super-genius inventor who became a superhero by inventing technological aids like an airship named the Bug, a protective suit, and flight pads. Over the years, he joined the Justice League and worked closely with the Birds of Prey before being murdered for the purpose of providing a shocking ending to the “Countdown to Infinite Crisis” one-shot.
In the New 52, however, Ted Kord is alive and well. He originally made some appearances in the “Forever Evil” miniseries, where he’s a young graduate student whose father Thomas Kord is the founder/owner of Kord Industries. Thomas Kord dies as part of an attack by Ultraman, leaving young Ted as the new owner of the tech company. Both here and in “DC Universe: Rebirth” #1, Ted’s depicted as a decade or so older, but still the owner of Kord Industries. Ted is serving as Jaime’s self-appointed mentor and quartermaster, calling him when trouble erupts and using the Bug as a mobile headquarters. In many ways, Ted is more excited about fighting bad guys than Jaime; it’s clearly much newer and jaw-dropping to him, and getting the chance to launch Jaime into action comes across as a real rush of adrenaline for Ted on the sidelines. We also get a replay of their scene from “DC Universe: Rebirth” #1, where Doctor Fate appears and warns Ted that the scarab is not alien technology, but magic. With Ted being a technological genius, it should prove to be interesting to see how he handles the revelation that the laws of physics and engineering may be less helpful than they previously seemed.
Villains, Villains, Everywhere
“Blue Beetle: Rebirth” #1 is still solidly a superhero comic, and where there are superheroes, there are supervillains. The main foes are a duo named Rack and Ruin, who deliberately call out Blue Beetle despite Jaime having never heard of them before. The duo appear to be fairly straightforward foes up until the point where Jaime flings the pair at each other, and their bodies promptly shatter… and then begin to animate and re-form. In many ways, it’s a precursor to Doctor Fate’s revelation that the scarab isn’t technological but magic; the duo come across after their shattering-and-reforming stunt as more like a sorcerous creation than anything biological or technological. In the end, it takes both Jaime and Ted working together to stop Rack and Ruin, hopefully a harbinger of both individuals working together to solve problems.
More importantly, Rack and Ruin are revealed to be working for someone else, and that someone is far closer to Jaime than he realizes. It’s when Brenda returns home from school that we learn that her Aunt Amparo (whom Brenda lives with) is the mastermind behind the earlier attack, continuing the theme of family, one that existed in both earlier “Blue Beetle” series. The minor conflict in the Reyes family forming the opening pages of “Blue Beetle: Rebirth” #1 turns out to be positively (and literally) mundane in comparison to what’s happening in Brenda’s home life. Keith Giffen and Scott Kolins have definitely reserved for themselves the ability to send both Jaime and Brenda into a tailspin when Amparo’s otherworldly nature is revealed before too long.
“Blue Beetle: Rebirth” #1 has just the right balance of friendship, mentoring, action, familya and a hopeful outlook to make it a perfect addition to the Rebirth re-launches. With multiple story threads launched for further exploration (Amparo’s scheme, the magical nature of the scarab, and smaller plot points like Jaime’s family or Paco and Brenda’s continual sparring), there’s a lot available going forward. Here’s to seeing what crawls out next.
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