Review: Blue Beetle: Shellshocked

Saturday, August 04, 2007

With Blue Beetle: Shellshocked, we're continuing now what's turning out to be a series-within-a-series in our examination of the One Year Later trade paperbacks--that is, an examination of the trades of the new series that came out of One Year Later--Aquaman: Sword of Atlantis, Firestorm: The Nuclear Man*, Blue Beetle, and next up, Flash: The Fastest Man Alive. The early three, as I've mentioned, also have the distinction of being series that I never much read before Infinite Crisis, and there's some larger issues embedded in this that I'll discuss in a few days (check out that discussion here).

In that comparison to the last few trades reviewed, I enjoyed Blue Beetle more than Firestorm, though still not as much as Aquaman. Beetle starts very strong, with some of the most engaging sequences even before Jaime Reyes becomes Blue Beetle, and continues with a fantastic take on the One Year Later concept. It's only toward the end of the trade where Beetle begins to sink into a combination of some fairly standard gang warefare cliches and introduces a whole band of one-note super-powered "extras," accompanied by a change in artwork, where Beetle begins to lose its shine.

The best thing about Blue Beetle is hero Jaime Reyes and his supporting cast. Like the new Aquaman, Jaime is a reluctant hero, but needs very little pushing to be convinced to save the day. His friends Paco and Brenda seem remarkably real, superceeding even Chuck Dixon's initial supporting cast for Robin. I also very much enjoyed Jaime's relationship with his family, and especially the portrayl of their conflicts after One Year Later--also seemingly very realistic. Jaime's immediate decision to tell his family about the Beetle scarab adds a great dynamic to the series.

Beetle also makes good use of the DC Universe at large. We see Guy Gardner, sure to appear again, and also Oracle and Black Canary. Ted Kord gets an early mention, as does Dan Garrett, and it's good to see that the Beetle legacy will be an important part of this series. The Phantom Stranger shows up, investigating the potential mystical nature of the Beetle scarab; in this way, Blue Beetle reminded me somewhat of the Damage series, where each plotline searches out a possible origin for the character. Jaime's interactions with each of these characters offers a unique and refreshing look at the DCU.

Though I found the end of Blue Beetle somewhat generic, I liked the trade as a whole, certainly enough to pick up the next one. That said, I had a sense of deja vu today reading Blue Beetle, and Firestorm before that. To anyone else, does it feel like 1994 again? I'll elaborate--more on that coming soon.

[Contains full covers.]

Thanks for reading!

* Granted the latest Firestorm started before Infinite Crisis, but as the first trade wasn't until One Year Later, I'm lumping it in.
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7 comments:

  1. You'll be happy to know that the second TPB, Road Trip, is a much stronger effort. The book finds its rhythm and is a lot of fun, something that's rather missing from many mainstream superhero books.

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  2. And I'm also glad to see Cully Hamner's back ... I think a lot of the fun of the first few issues is the combination of Giffen and Rogers, and Hamner's art. When Hamner goes away toward the end of Shellshocked, that's where things started to feel flat to me.

    I'll let you know (of course) what I think of Road Trip. Thanks for the comment!

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  3. I agree with Jeffrey the recent issues of Blue Beetle have been awesome.
    I was sad when Ted Kord was killed, I quickly reread my full run of his solo title thinking that the replacement would not be as good. I was wrong.
    The supporting cast of this book is what makes it. Don't let the fact that Hamner left stray you from the book, this title along with Robin are currently DC's best.

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  4. That's high praise to say Robin is DC's best book right now--that's a title that's had a tough run of it over the past few years. Well, you've whet my interest for the next Robin trade, at least ...

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  5. Seriously, I have to say that Blue Beetle and Robin are the constantly best OYL titles.
    http://www.spacebooger.com/index.php/2007/03/18/the-dark-knight-is-now-a-shade-of-red/

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  6. i feel like an idiot, but i have to ask

    I'm a big BB fan
    but is this a comic
    or a novel?

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  7. It's a trade paperback collection of previously published comic book issues. What made you wonder?

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