Blue Beetle Volume 1: More Things Change (2016)
Written by Keith Giffen
Art by Scott Kolins
Jaime Reyes continues his tenure as the Blue Beetle, but this time he is given a mentor in Ted Kord, the former Blue Beetle. Over the course of this volume, Jaime investigates but fails to resolve the mystery of kids from his high school disappearing. He also learns his mother is providing medical services for The Posse, a gang of teenage metahumans that are sometimes antagonists for Beetle. In the background, Dr. Fate issues enigmatic warnings to Ted Kord about the true nature of the Scarab, the object which gives Beetle his power. Everything Jaime thinks he knows about this item appears to be wrong.
Blue Beetle should work, and it could work, but it fails so badly. There isn’t just one reason why this reboot of the character is terrible. The first is mainly Keith Giffen. I wouldn’t say I was Giffen fan, but I don’t dislike him. He is good depending on what he is writing. His Justice League run in the 1980s is my favorite incarnation of the team, despite all its unconventional directions. I haven’t delved too deep into his Legion of Super-Heroes work but have loved what I read. However, in the 2000s and further, he has shown a marked decline in the quality of his work. I think it is especially weird to have a 65-year-old white guy who was born and raised in New York writing a teenage Latino kid who lives in Albuquerque. Not only does Jaime never feel like a real teenager due to stilted and unnatural dialogue, but there is also true no sense of place. The setting feels like any generic DC fictional small town.
Before this series, there was no prologue or explanation as to how Ted Kord became the mentor of Jaime, and by the end of the collection, I am still not sure. There is a definite change in how Jaime got the Scarab. Previously, he had received it as a result of the death of magic in 2005’s Infinite Crisis. Now he just fishes it out of a river with a hint that the Golden Age Beetle, Dan Garrett, had it before. This lack of cohesive background is one example of how the story in this collection is confusing and nonsensical. There is never an actual villain or antagonist through this arc, just some characters Beetle has conflicts with and then fizzle out.
Blue Beetle, in this incarnation, could be a DC’s answer to Spider-Man. Yes, there are the apparent bug connections in costume, but beyond that, there is the foundation of a complex network of supporting characters. Unlike Spidey, Beetle’s parents know he is a superhero, but there is never any tension worked out of that. I think a realistic and exciting response would be for his parents to protest Jaime putting his life in danger every day. They both are way too laid back about the issue. I love the idea of the Jaime/Ted partnership, but nothing in this storyline take full advantage of this addition.
I have made attempts to connect with every version of the Jaime Reyes Beetle since his creation in 2005, but DC never seems to choose the correct writer to bring out the best in the character. He remains a painfully generic, Image Comics like creation. Ultimately shallow and without any of the energy and life, a title like this should have.