The original Jaime Reyes Blue Beetle series following Infinite Crisis remains a well-regarded cult classic to this day. The series was unique in several respects, chief among them being that Jaime’s family and friends were aware of his superheroic status and actively supportive of his efforts to help people. This stood in marked contrast to nearly every other comic book about a teenage superhero ever. The series also offered a rare (for American mainstream comics, at least) depiction of a working-class Hispanic family.
That changed in the New 52 and – as Linkara detailed in his excellent Blue Beetle retrospective – it was not a change for the better. Jaime now hid his secret identity just like every other teen superhero. The role of Jaime’s family and friends was drastically reduced. Worst of all, Jaime’s more down-to-earth adventures were replaced with continual space-travel.
Those hoping for a fresh start or a return to form with Blue Beetle Rebirth will be sorely disappointed. Jaime’s family is barely in the first issue long enough to acknowledge that they still exist. Jaime’s friends are there just long enough to confirm that they know Jaime’s secret and are helping cover for his absence from school. And the story of how Jaime came to be bonded to the scarab and met Ted Kord is related through a caption box on the first page.
This series’ treatment of Ted Kord is sure to be a sticking point with old-school Blue Beetle fans. Ted is presented as an excitable fanboy with more technology than common sense who wants to be a superhero. This is all well and good…except that all sense of compassion has been leached out of Ted’s character. Jaime’s wants and needs are secondary to Ted’s dreams of heroism. Keith Giffen’s script tries to play this off as hilarious – a twist on the usual formula of the jaded adult hero with the excitable teenage sidekick. Unfortunately, the execution depicts the Ted/Jaime relationship as being more like Rick and Morty than Batman and Robin, only with a less competent and less understanding Rick.
This brings to mind a major logical fallacy with the series set-up. We’re told that Jaime sought out Ted Kord hoping the billionaire genius inventor could help him get the scarab off of his body. Instead, Ted has started throwing his creative genius into developing tools and devices so that he can help Jaime fight crime. The problem is that Jaime really doesn’t want to be a superhero and doesn’t have any pressing need to use his powers to fight crime. There’s no clear reason why he couldn’t just go find some other billionaire genius inventor and ask for their help!
The artwork for this issue is competent but not outstanding. Scott Kolins seems to be phoning it in on some panels and there’s little sense of the action the permeated Kolins work on The Flash. And Colorist Romulo Fajardo Jr. utilizes a muted palette that leaves much of the issue looking dull and drab. In this sense, it matches the story well.
If I were to summarize Blue Beetle Rebirth in a single word, it would be disappointing. I’m honestly not sure who this series is aimed at. New readers will find the material largely inaccessible. Fans of the characters won’t appreciate the liberties taken. And the best parts of the issue are those taken directly from DC Universe Rebirth #1. All in all this does not bode well for this series’ future.