Blue Beetle: Rebirth #1
Written by Keith Giffen
Art by Scott Kolins and Romulo Fajardo, Jr.
Lettering by Josh Reed
Published by DC Comics
'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10
Ted Kord and Jaime Reyes have both been cult favorite superheroes in their own right, and DC has decided to double down on the concept with Blue Beetle: Rebirth #1, teaming up the two heroes with some encouraging results. Most teen heroes aren’t at the beck and call of a rich inventor, but that’s where Jamie finds himself if he ever hopes to get this otherworldly scarab off his back. There is a lot of life in writer Keith Giffen’s script, and artist Scott Kolins turns in some of his best work yet. Has DC found their answer to Marvel’s stable of relatable young heroes? They just might have.
While Blue Beetle: Rebirth #1’s overall concept does come together by the end of the issue, it does take a little while to get there. Giffen and Kolins fumble through Jaime Reyes’ set-up as he heads to school plays peacekeeper between his friends Brenda and Paco, because the jokes run a bit too long and feel a little too hit-or-miss. While it’s nice to see a little bit of Jaime’s dynamic with his friends and family, once that intro out of the way, the storytellers are able lean fully into the larger concept. DC’s Rebirth specials have been mostly very good at centering characters and helping readers understand their place in the larger DCU, so it’s nice to see Giffen and Kolins give Blue Beetle a foe that is scale-appropriate - something he can handle on his way to school - giving the book a fun throwback quality reminiscent of some old-school Nova.
What’s really interesting about the dynamic between Ted Kord and Jaime Reyes is that they’re coming from vastly different backgrounds. Kord is a Batman or Iron Man type of hero - he’s extremely smart and resourceful, he’s excited to participate in high-flying superheroics (at least via intercom), and demographically speaking, he’s also rich and white. On paper, Jaime couldn’t be any different - he’s a kid who didn’t choose to bear the burden of being a superhero. His family is Latino, and seems to be solidly middle-class. His priorities are far different than Ted’s, and there’s a large amount of fodder for stories here, particularly when their cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds are sure to cause friction. This is part of what was missing in the "New 52" and even in the DCU leading up to that reboot. Rather than organically introduce conflict by putting characters in new situations that made sense, writers were forcing conflicts that didn’t make sense or needed some outsized explanation in order to finesse them. This story wraps around the moment that we saw in Geoff Johns’ initial DC Universe: Rebirth #1 one-shot very nicely and proves that there’s a larger plan for this version of the DCU.
Scott Kolins’ artwork has come a long way in recent years, and with DC moving farther away from a Jim Lee-tinged house style, his exuberant and expressive linework is a nice fit for Blue Beetle. His character designs for Jaime, Ted and the Blue Beetle costume are memorable and effective. And Kolins is uniquely aware of the kind of story that’s being told. A kid with bad luck has to fight some crime before getting to first period? Well, throw up that classic Spider-Man splash of our hero in full costume above the city. It’s a great look, and a good indication to readers that this is the tone that the creators are going for (and nailing). The design for the Bug, Ted and Jaime’s mobile headquarters, is really classic and doesn’t shy away from the fact that Blue Beetle was the inspiration for Alan Moore and Dave Gibons’ Night Owl in Watchmen. (In fact, given the current DCU’s Watchmen connection, it will be interesting to see if Blue Beetle becomes an entry point for that character.) What’s most impressive is that Blue Beetle doesn’t look like any other book that DC is putting out right now, but it feels like it fits in with their more risky, stylized books. Kolins’ panel layouts have a little bit of funk in them. Romulo Fajardo’s colors pop off the page and he embraces bright blues throughout. The gutters are slightly distracting, but they aren’t the worst choice when he team is clearly trying to evoke a “pop comic books” feeling.
Blue Beetle: Rebirth #1 is a very pleasant surprise. Giffen and Fajardo work together to remix the idea of a teen hero in the 2010s very well. It’s too soon to call this DC’s answer to a title like Ultimate Spider-Man, but it definitely has that feeling. When books are working this well, the powers that be would be remiss not to pay attention. The seamless integration of Doctor Fate makes this book one that holds keys to understanding the new limits of this DCU. But on a smaller scale, there’s a really fun superhero book about a kid who just wants to get to school on time and happens to have some really bad luck along the way. DC has long lacked a human element, opting to present their characters (even the solidly human ones) as mythic, godlike figures. But with Blue Beetle, it seems like the times, they are a-changin’.