In the latest of our comprehensive series of reviews of DC Comics' 52 relaunched titles, we take a look at Blue Beetle #1.
Who's it by?
Blue Beetle #1 is written by Tony Bedard (Green Lantern: New Guardians) and drawn by Ig Guara (Flashpoint: Grodd of War).
What's the history?
The original Blue Beetle, Dan Garret, debuted in Fox Comics' Mystery Men Comics #1 in 1939. The character was a masked vigilante who used various gadgets and a mystical carved scarab to fight crime. The second and most well-known Blue Beetle was Ted Kord, an athletic genius who took on the role after his mentor Garret's death in the '60s under Charlton Comics.
DC Comics bought various properties from Charlton, including Blue Beetle, who was integrated into the DC Universe. Kord was a member of Keith Giffen and JM DeMatteis's acclaimed Justice League International. He was eventually killed by Max Lord in 2005 in the build-up to Infinite Crisis.
The current incarnation of Blue Beetle is Jaime Reyes, a young Texan of Hispanic descent. Introduced in Infinite Crisis in 2006, he received his powers in the form of a suit of alien armour from a mysterious scarab-like device.
He played a key role in the event before going on to star in his own ongoing series from 2006 to 2009, and most recently appeared in Justice League: Generation Lost.
Blue Beetle #1 offers a retold origin story for the most recent version of the superhero. As Bedard promised, this is a simplified origin compared to the complexities of Reyes's place within the 'Infinite Crisis' event. It also establishes the extraterrestrial origin of the scarab from the get-go, unlike in the original telling.
The details of Reyes's origin are apparently unchanged. The creators of the scarab are still the alien empire known as 'The Reach', and the device was still created by them to allow the infiltration and eventual invasion of alien cultures.
The first issue does not address any of the continuity changes introduced in the New 52 so far, other than playing with the origin story of Blue Beetle himself.
The comic begins on an alien world in the distant past, where a member of the native race annihilates his people using the powers of a suit of Blue Beetle armour. One of the alien scarabs is passing through space where it is intercepted and damaged by a green lantern, causing it to crash land on Earth.
In the present day, we are introduced to the teenager Reyes, who spends his time bickering with his schoolmates and parents. Sneaking out to a party one night, he gets caught in the crossfire between two gangs of metahumans fighting over the unearthed scarab. The device falls into Reyes's hands, initiating a dramatic and not altogether unsettling transformation.
What's the verdict?
Blue Beetle is a competent and entertaining origin story for the character. It is certainly one of the more successful introductory issues of the New 52, establishing the key concepts and characters of the series and demanding very little knowledge of the tropes of the DC Comics universe.
Tony Bedard makes a good job of quickly introducing us to Reyes and his friends Paco and Brenda. Though they do not receive a lot of space for extended dialogue, Bedard is quick to establish the three with their own traits and personalities. Reyes himself is something of an everyman, but it is evidence of his likeability that readers will feel a twinge of concern for him by the final panel.
Ig Guara's art is solid, clean and well suited to the tone of Blue Beetle. The characters are expressive and he must also be credited with the economy by which they are firmly established. The two posses of supervillains feature some lovely design work and their fight scenes are dynamic and easily followed.
This is an ideal book for younger readers, bold and fast-paced with just the right balance between plot and action. As Bedard has said, there is something of reminiscent of Spider-Man in Blue Beetle's origin and character (and creepy-crawly theme), but enough originality in it that it does not feel like a cheap knock-off.
Blue Beetle #1 is a fun and straightforward superhero comic and, although we have only been teased with the promise of what is to come so far, there is enough here to leave us eager for more.
> Buy the digital version of Blue Beetle #1
> Read our review of Legion of Super-Heroes #1
Watch The New 52 introduction video from DC Comics below: