Blue Beetle 13

Today, Patrick and Drew are discussing Blue Beetle 13, originally released October 17th, 2012.

Patrick: Did you guys see Million Dollar Baby? I’m going to spoil it right here, so fair warning. The first two-thirds of the movie is a rousing sports movie: Hilary Swank plays  a lady-boxer and Clint Eastwood plays her curmudgeonly coach/manager. During one of the big bouts, Hilary Swank falls and breaks her neck. She breaks her neck. The final 45 minutes of the movie become a morality play exploring Clint Eastwood’s decision to take his paralyzed pupil off life-support. The plot, the tone, the pacing — it all turns on a dime. Suddenly you’re watching a different movie with the same characters. I hated this shift, partially because I felt the message of the later third was heavy-handed, but mostly because I liked the boxing movie. Million Dollar Baby lured me into its world with something I found genuinely attractive and then took it away from me. Blue Beetle, why you gotta Million Dollar Baby me?

Jaime Reyes is already locked in combat with some reach drones when we flip to page one. His scarab armor makes itself useful and fends off the attackers. Jaime’s too far from Earth to just fly home, so they land on the Reach homeworld, looking to bum a ride. Luckily — like, impossibly luckily — Jaime runs into Khaji-Kai, literally the ONLY BEING on this planet that wouldn’t want to kill him on sight.

A little background on Khaji-Kai: Kai is actually the first scarab warrior the readers are introduced to in Blue Beetle 1. At the time of his introduction, he’s just wrapping up wiping out all life on his home planet, when a sudden sadness comes over him. This is odd for scarab warriors — there is normally nothing left behind of the host’s will or emotions. He later keeps tabs on Jaime, and is like 30 seconds away from confronting him when they’re called to invade the Blue Lantern planet of Odym. Khaji-Kai is blasted with Saint Walker’s healing ray, and the consciousness of the host creature blinks back to life. Kai (or the being inside that armor) recalls Jaime’s unexplainable ability to command his armor, and seeks him out.

Okay, caught up. Khaji-Kai and Jaime decide to team up to destroy the scarab homeworld (which… seems to be a separate planet from the Reach homeworld… hey, I just work here). But things are going to get tricky because Sky Witness — the original wearer of the Khaji-Da armor — has sprung back to life and wants his scarab back.

I chuckle every time I finishing writing one of these little recaps. Oh, space. The science fiction elements of Blue Beetle  have mainly served the color the domestic drama that Jaime Reyes was going through. For the purposes of the first 12 issues, the Blue Beetle powers could have been magical or vaguely supernatural or whatever — the story would have been basically the same. On a superficial level, the setting has moved to outer-space, but most meaningfully, the setting moved away from Jaime’s friends,  family and culture. In space, no one can you you claim that this is a fundamentally different series.

There’s also the knowledge that issue 16 will be Blue Beetle’s final issue — making this arc the character’s last hurrah. I grow increasingly worried that this conflict is going to revolve around aliens fighting other aliens on alien planets. This series did such a nice job of connecting the conflicts with the values of its characters, and the thought of a battle to destroy killer robots wearies me.

And maybe I’m being too hard on this issue. Tony Bedard is doing an impressive job of connecting the disparate elements from earlier in this series and focusing them on a single mission: destroy the Reach. And penciler Ig Guara achieves some arresting imagery — especially for a comic so firmly entrenched in that semi-realistic, American-animation style. Take the reveal of Reachworld, for example.

I wish the design of Sky Witness would have retained the feathered-war-serpent look of Quetzalcoatl — as it stands, he just sorta of looks like your standard emaciated zombie-type. Which is fine, but not really as compelling as the form of a Mayan god.

Drew, I know I entered this title into our pull list kicking and screaming, but so far, this series has not at all been representative of why I found it attractive in the first place. Much like the boy who suggested an evening of racy TGIF programming, I’m starting to feel like I’ve lead you astray with this recommendation. How does all this silly space stuff sit with you?

Drew: Hahaha. Yeah, I guess I know what you’re going through here. I guess I should say that I do have some familiarity with Jaime Reyes; I’ve actually enjoyed this character quite a bit on Young Justice. The constant bickering between Jaime and his scarab is a treat — like the odd couple, but with violence instead of tidiness — and unlike anything else I’m reading. It’s a shame that exploring the mechanics of that relationship pulls Jaime away from his family life, where the scarab can be a clever stand in for Jaime’s worst thoughts — the devil on his shoulder with no angel to balance his advice.

Still, understanding how Jaime keeps the scarab in check could prove interesting. The zero issue set up a “the scarab is malfunctioning” explanation,  but I could see “Jaime has incredible restraint” as being a really compelling story. The Green Lantern mythos has kind of steamrolled willpower into the cocksure braggadocio typified by Hal and Guy, but I’d love to see a character whose power is simply keeping his inner demons in check. I don’t know much about Jaime’s home life in this series, so I can’t speak to any specific temptations he might struggle with, but that would be an interesting idea to explore for any teenage character.

But enough about what I think this series could be — we have an actual issue to discuss. Patrick is right to dismiss much of the space operatics as just a little too goofy, but there’s still a lot to like here. I’m particularly pleased to see that Jaime’s relationship with the scarab is very similar to what makes me like his character so much on Young Justice. They bicker and squawk endearingly, and I was surprised to realize that they’re relationship is very similar to the one I have with my phone. Jaime uses the scarab for all kinds of things — from navigation to a source of information — and gets super frustrated when it doesn’t work the way he wants it to.

PC Load Letter? What the fuck does that mean?Making the scarab an occasionally unreliable, dispassionate piece of technology actually makes their relationship incredibly relatable. Sure, Jaime’s life is in the hands of the scarab, but that only makes it more effective as a commentary on our own reliance on technology.

At the same time, the scarab has it’s own will, and even a sense of pride. I was particularly fond of the little pep-talk the scarab gives Jaime as they approach Reachworld:

"That's not what y"That's not what you said when I needed help during my history final!"ou said during my history final!"It’s a clever explanation that the scarab is so prideful, it would help deceive its own kind just to “win.” The scenes that follow are pretty standard fish-out-of-water fare, but it’s enjoyable enough. I’m less impressed with Sky Witness, who reanimates for the express purposes of being a villain for the next arc. His Wile E. Coyote near-misses are a little too silly for me, but I’m willing to accept that as part of the lighter tone of this title, which I’m otherwise quite fond of.

So you don’t need to feel embarrassed to have recommended this at all, Patrick. There’s clearly a lot of good things going on in this title, even if we’ve taken a detour from the elements that originally drew you to it. Its openly silly tone is charming, even when the silliness becomes a little much. It’s a shame we probably won’t be seeing more of Jaime’s home life before the end, but taking him off-world hasn’t completely robbed this series of its soul. Shoot, now I’ve got to find time to read the back issues.

For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page.  Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore.  If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to DC’s website and download issues there.  There’s no need to pirate, right?

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9 comments on “Blue Beetle 13

  1. Yeah, that’s another thing – Khaji-Kai is going to be super disappointed when he discovers that Jaime is able to control his scarab because the thing is busted. Drew, I know you’re willing to grant that maybe Jaime has some green-lantern-caliber will power, but Sky Witness was able to control the armor too (otherwise all life on earth would have been wiped out hundreds of years ago).

  2. This title is interesting to me because I love Blue Beetle, Jaime Reyes, Khaji Da and his supporting cast, but could never get into this incarnation of the comic. From reading the scans above it looks like it’s gotten better from the first few issues of the reboot, even if space operatics bores me to tears.

    That said, I’m writing in to recommend checking out the version of the Blue Beetle comic (starring the same characters) that ran before the reboot (hopefully this will be a lot different from those TGIF level recommendations heh). It focuses a lot on the aspects of this version that you like so much, like the growing bond between Jaime and the Scarab and ESPECIALLY Jaime’s relationships his family and friends, which are changed by the Scarab in entirely different (yet still profound) ways than they are in the reboot. These comics are what made me a fan of the Blue Beetle despite his reboot book being a little dark for me (I had to drop the book once I got to Da Lama slitting someone’s throat and casting a spell with their blood); the only downside is it takes a few issues to really pick up (I kinda recommend starting with Volume 2 and eventually going back to reread the first later actually), and that the early issues are slightly steeped in the Infinite Crisis crossover (but Jaime’s as confused about it as the reader is, so it works). But I know that title delivers the things you like about Blue Beetle, so its worth checking out someday

  3. Retreading Jaime versus the Reach after Jon Rogers brilliant run just seems… pointless. Jaime and his supporting cast are such fantastic characters and the fact that Bedard seems to be ignoring the original series entirely is just confounding and depressing.

  4. This was a casualty of the zero month. I was into the story, very much liking Jaime and the cast, and my comic store sold out of the zero issue, Jaime went to space, I didn’t much like the preview, it’s being canceled anyway, and. . .

    Your review doesn’t make me want to even satisfy the completionist in me (and that’s a strong urge, I have the entire Mr. Terrific run).

    This title is by the wayside so I can pick up Marvel’s new Fantastic Four and FF titles.

    • It’s a tough call to cut a title featuring a character you love, but there’s too many great comics out there to put up with mediocre ones. This issue really wasn’t that bad, but I know there are titles out there that are better, and I feel some sense of responsibility to find them.

      • Yeah, that’s a lot of it. There are so many good comics right now, I just can’t see buying 4 more issues that aren’t fantastic. To be fair, I was feeling the same way about Wonder Woman, went back and read the whole series, was still bothered by little nagging things (several characters have very similar tone’s when they talk), but found that reading them all together made several parts of the story clear that I didn’t fully understand before. It probably would read better as a trade (as far as I’m concerned, the kiss of death of comics, I like my monthlies), but it turns out I was able to find a deeper appreciation for Diana. I still didn’t like the zero issue completely, but I’m at least sticking around until Hermes’ plan is revealed.

        On the other hand, a rereading of Blue Beetle didn’t add that much. It feels, sadly, like some of the other comics that were canceled in the months leading up to the cancellation – BOOM, change, BOOM, change, ok, here’s the story. Oh well.

        Was I correct in interpreting Jaime is going to be part of a future book and he’s going to be part of an ensemble cast in space? Or did I completely make that up? It’s possible, I’ve been sleep deprived all week and am operating on fumes right now.

    • LOL, I feel you. I have that complete Mr Terrific run too… I actually was considering dropping it when it was wrapping up the 9th dimension plot (AWFUL), but I’d liked the first and arc and they announced an imminent cancellation so I just rode it out for completion’s sake. I made a gut decision to drop Reboot Beatle after issue one but have been following the alternating currents and second guessing that call

  5. Pingback: Blue Beetle 14 | Retcon Punch

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