It’s a typical day in El Paso, Texas. Teenager Jaime Reyes has said goodbye to his family and is walking to school with bickering pals Brenda and Paco when scientist Ted Kord calls him and says super-villains have attacked the local coffee house. Bad guys Rack and Ruin don’t want to hurt anyone, particularly, but will if it’s the only way to get Blue Beetle to fight them – they seem to be on an information-gathering exercise. And while Jaime accepts the responsibility that comes with the scarab attached to his spine, he’s understandably wary of the hi-tech suit he can barely control.
Mind, it can do some rather cool things.
So, Blue Beetle gets his DC Rebirth and it’s two for the price of one, as Jaime is mentored by Ted Kord, owner of the role in earlier continuities. Well, ‘mentor’ is overstating things, as Ted isn’t giving Jaime a lot of advice during his encounter with the low-rent bad guys. Ted is hovering about the Sundollar coffee shop in his amazing Bug, talking to Jaime, but not offering much up in the way of suggestions. Jamie’s hooked up with him in the hope Ted can help him detach the scarab, but Ted seems more interested in vicarious superheroing. One thing he does know is that the Blue Beetle suit is of alien origin…
It’s so good to have Jaime back. He had a shortlived series during the New 52 period but tweaks to the original series made the strip less than it has been; this is much closer to the 2006 run, right down to the inclusion of Brenda’s rather unusual aunt.
I don’t know how well scripter Keith Giffen – he’s plotting with artist Scott Kolins – is capturing today’s teenagers, but I don’t much care; he’s giving us three distinct, likeable characters in Jaime, Paco and Brenda and that’ll do me. Having Ted Kord back – apparently older and certainly with better hair than in his few New 52 appearances – is the icing on the cake. His personality matches that of the Eighties Justice League Ted, the one everyone likes, making him a good foil for the more serious Jaime. And who can blame Jaime for not making jokes every ten seconds?
Rack and Ruin seem like disposable utility villains, but I do like their chattiness – they remind me of the Scullions from JL3001…
Giffen does like a bit of banter, and it’s a hoot that Rack and Ruin accuse Jaime of being chatty. As a change of pace, he lets us see just one side of the conversations between Jaime and Ted when they’re on the phone to one another and it’s fun to imagine the other side of things. Then there’s a nice nod to ancient Batman stories.
The illustrations of Kolins – last seen alongside Giffen on Justice League 3001 – are excellent, telling the story with economy and flair. The action scenes have as much energy as any presumed–alien outfit, while the downtime moments are quietly joyous. My favourite image is the moment Jaime leaps into action, he looks great as positioned by Kolins and coloured by Romulo Fajardo Jr. A few pages have a spotty frame, which isn’t Kolins avoiding backgrounds, as they’re inside the panels, he’s just giving the book it’s own visual identity. And kudos to the creators for also giving us a proper old-fashioned splash page introducing Jaime’s narration.
Kolins also draws and colours the cover, which reminds me – likely deliberately – of the work of Ted Kord creator Steve Ditko. Cully Hamner, who co-created Jaime Reyes, is back for the variant and it’s great to see him draw the character again.
After the last series I was afraid DC would bungle another relaunch, but Giffen, Kolins and co have produced a refreshing comic that takes the best of the past and, with the inclusion of Ted, adds something new. Don’t miss it.