Blue Beetle buzzes off with this issue after a respectable three-year run. That’s respectable so far as the amount of issues published is concerned. In terms of quality, the book’s been far beyond respectable – it’s been consistently excellent (hey, editor Rachel Gluckstern, take a bow!).
And writer Matthew Sturgess and the rest of the creative team ensure the quality doesn’t dip, as Jaime Reyes goes out with a bang. He’s been attacked by a bunch of extraterrestrials but, as they say on Police Squad, that’s not important right now. Superhero and villain battles, hey, they happen. What happens less often is a mainstream comic book so smart, so full of likeable characters, so . . . right that you hate to see it go.
Sturgess begins with Jaime ruminating on the thoughts of original Beetle Dan Garrett and the hero’s place in society. They’re pretty much the opposite of second Beetle Ted Kord’s, as laid out last issue, but they give Jaime, inheritor of their heroic mantle/carapace as much to think about. And while both heroes are dead, they’re a presence in Jaime’s life and give him help a couple of times here.
Once again, Sturges showcases Jaime’s rich supporting cast – his friends, his family and his ‘Beetle Cave’ tech allies. The fact that we won’t see them regularly is one of the big sadnesses of this book’s cancellation but they’re still around and will likely pop up occasionally. One of them, at least, is almost guaranteed to pop up again, as their relationship with Jaime changes – and not for the better.
Carlo Barberi and Jacob Ecuren provide pencils and inks and do a fine job, keeping within the Blue Beetle house style established by Cully Hamner and Rafael Albuquerque, without going the identikit route. I especially like their scenes of Jaime falling through space, the composition choices are top notch.
I’d love to repro the issue’s final panel here – it’s terribly clever, and utterly perfect, but it’s best read in context, in an issue that underlines how far Jaime has come. Just over three years ago he was a kid who found the scarab in DC weekly 52; now he’s one of the DCU’s up and comers, someone Superman is happy to have in his corner. He’s learned to use for good powers that were meant to make him earth’s enemy. He’s shown ingenuity in the face of awful odds and an instinct for improvisation. He’s saved the world from the scarab’s creators. He’s found respect from the superhero community, notably hotheads Guy Gardner and Peacemaker. He’s become a true hero.
And while the scarab-generated-suit is a powerful tool, Jaime’s greatest weapon has been his heart. Yeah, it sounds icky, but it’s true. Jaime’s willingness to listen to people, to give them respect, to learn from them and allow others to join the good fight, has seen him grow from callow youth to quite the young hero.
So, see you in Teen Titans, Jaime. Perhaps in a back-up strip in a DC anthology. And in a big black and white manga style telephone book of the entire run, collecting one young hero’s perfect journey. *
* I made this up, but it’s on the internet now – someone might believe it, make it happen, and make some money. Just call it American manga, print it back to front, and the kids will flock to it!