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There is an art to graduating secondary characters into the prime time. Marvel has had success getting characters like Ant-Man, Doctor Strange, and Black Panther, who would not recently have been considered A-list, their own movies and successful comic series. DC brought the Suicide Squad into the larger public consciousness this summer. There are still many superheroes who are below the radar, including Blue Beetle, so it was a bit surprising that DC included the hero as one of its “Rebirth” titles. In Blue Beetle Rebirth #1, we get not only one Beetle – Jaime Reyes – but also Ted Kord, the fan favorite Beetle who met an untimely end in the pre-New 52 continuity. While Blue Beetle Rebirth #1 isn’t the most amazing thing, it is fun and shows some promise for a new series.
At the beginning of Blue Beetle Rebirth #1, Jaime Reyes is already the Blue Beetle and is being helped by a rich inventor named Ted Kord (who seems to have not been Blue Beetle in this continuity). However, Jaime is still a kid – a teenager whose superhero exploits are making him tardy and absent for class. In this issue, he has to defeat a couple of hired goons named Rack and Ruin. Jaime does this but seems at times to not be in total control of his mysterious suit, which is bonded to him and gives him powers.
There are some good elements at play in Blue Beetle Rebirth #1. First, it’s great to see Keith Giffen writing Ted Kord again, even if he’s a different Ted. Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis co-wrote the beloved the 1980s Justice League series in which Ted Kord-Blue Beetle and Booster Gold became one of the best buddy teams in comics. There is a different dynamic in this Blue Beetle iteration. The Kord-Reyes dynamic is not exactly mentor-pupil. However, it’s similar to the Harrison Wells-Barry Allen interaction on the Flash TV show. The elder has knowledge and technology while the younger has raw extraordinary abilities. Though it’s a little forced at times in Blue Beetle Rebirth #1, the Kord-Reyes tandem looks to have potential.
Another appealing aspect to this first issue is that it includes (briefly) Dr. Fate. He comes bringing Ted Kord a warning about Jaime’s suit. Ted and Jaime believe the suit is alien, but Dr. Fate warns that it is actually magic and dangerous. Adding Dr. Fate as a supporting player could be a major boost. He has an aura of gravity and mystery that could play well off the fun interaction of Ted and Jaime. This also seems to be a different Dr. Fate than the teenage one featured in the recent “DC You” series Dr. Fate. Furthermore, a combination of magic and Ted Kord’s tech brings many intriguing story possibilities.
While there are things that make me think a new Blue Beetle series could be worthwhile, this first issue is still a little clunky. I like the fun vibe that Giffen and artist Scott Kolins have created. Some of the dialog is awkward, though. Jaime’s friends tease each other in a way that doesn’t feel real. Likewise, Jaime and Ted’s relationship is a bit confusing. It seems new, but it’s hard to get a read on why or how they are working together. Hopefully, that is explored more and their dialog could use a bit more punch, too. There are hints at Jaime’s family life, and I think that could eventually be a great way to explore his character more.
Kolins has a distinctive art style that I don’t always like. However, his work on Blue Beetle Rebirth #1 is really quite good. He manages to draw Blue Beetle in a way that seems to combine a retro (1950s-1960s) aesthetic with the more popular manga-influenced cartoon look that is used by artists like Humberto Ramos. Kolins draws the action scene nicely too, giving a sense of energy to the panels. I also like his rendering of Dr. Fate, who looks very differently drawn than Blue Beetle.
I don’t think Blue Beetle Rebirth #1 is going to set the comic book world on fire. Blue Beetle does have a cult following (both the Reyes and Kord versions), but that doesn’t even guarantee it great sales. While Blue Beetle Rebirth #1 is not an astounding comic, it is a fun re-start to a few great characters. There also seem to be enough encouraging signs that this series could become a very good one.