REVIEW: Blue Beetle #1

BLUEBEETLE1

Written by TONY BEDARD / Art by IG GUARA & RUY JOSE
Colors by PETE PENTAZIS / Letters by ROB LEIGH

At first, I was taken aback by the decision to hand Jaime Reyes the role of Blue Beetle in DC’s ongoing reboot of the series. Ted Kord has always been the most famous Beetle, and since the Crisis events no longer count, it would almost seem like a no-brainer to bring him back. Fortunately, my skepticism didn’t last very long, because Tony Bedard and Ig Guara come through with a first issue that, for now, will keep my complaining to a minimum.

The book starts with a short prologue set years in the past. There’s a battle on a distant planet between an alien race and The Reach, an empire that uses scarab armies to conquer planets. A single scarab gets sent to Earth, where it isn’t touched for years. The sole purpose of the rest of the book is to introduce Jaime Reyes as the Blue Beetle. Once the book shoots to the present day, the scarab has fallen into the wrong hands, and Jaime accidentally stumbles into the middle of a scuffle for it.

What Bedard does best in his first issue on the book is keeping a good pace. Despite it being an origin story for a character that has already been established, it’s not a slow book. Tony Bedard walks a tightrope here; because it’s hard to keep that kind of balance all the way through. Fortunately, it pays off, and the pacing throughout is fast but steady.

A lot of the dialogue for the teenage characters is 80s-teen-movie cheesy. There’s lame slang and lamer jokes here, as Jaime gets embarrassed at gym class. The teen movie staples don’t stop there, either. Joey Gonzalez is a stereotypical alpha-male bully, even to the point where he’s got goons to back him up and laugh at all his jokes. The whole scene feels like it’s straight out of a decades-old teen flick, but it works. It doesn’t feel dated. Instead, it’s endearing.

Bedard’s dialogue for most of the characters in the parts set in El Paso is “translated from the Splanglish,” to quote the book itself. Basically, he just throws Spanish words into sentences at random. It’s an easy way to set the tone, and one that’s used quite often (Especially in X-Men. Nightcrawler will throw in some German words every once in a while, Colossus will call people “comrade,” etc.). Unfortunately, it slows down the otherwise quick pace of the story. I found myself rereading lines a few times before I understood them, or even just giving up after a few times. It’s rough on those who aren’t so Spanish-savvy.

Blue Beetle is strongest in its action scenes. Guara uses borderless and overlapping panels to create a great sense of movement and flow. The overlapping panels are rarely used just for show. Most of them lead the reader’s eyes from panel to panel, while almost always avoiding jarring transitions.

Guara also has a knack for facial expressions and unique characters. There aren’t any blank, dead faces here (unless they’re there on purpose). Every character is fleshed out, and he doesn’t waste space with any generic characters. There’s a moment toward the end of the book where one character is forced to make a split-second decision, and without the art, it would be hard to tell if he was making it decision out of fear or out of determination. Guara makes it clear. His art and Bedard’s writing work well together.

Blue Beetle #1 turns out like your average Tex-Mex food. All of the parts work together, and even though it’s not anything particularly mind blowing and new, it’s worth the price you’re paying, and there’s a good chance you’ll come back later on for more. As long as you don’t mind being introduced to a character that was already introduced six years ago, Blue Beetle #1 is worth a try.

 WRITING: 3 / ART: 3 / OVERALL: 3

About Tom Lafferty

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