Blue Beetle Vol. 2: Blue Diamond. The massive eleven-issue trade starts slowly, but picks up steam as it goes along, and if nothing else whet my appetite for the short-lived Threshold series that follows this, Blue Beetle's last collection.
[Review contains spoilers]
The first two chapters of Blue Diamond are the weakest, though they represent well why the book gets stronger from there. In these, Blue Beetle Jaime Reyes has run away to New York so as to keep his scarab powers from further harming his family. There, he encounters a shelter for runaways where new villain Stopwatch uses the runaways to commit crimes. Stopwatch is a rather silly, one-note villain, and despite that the story reflected Jaime's time in New York, it didn't have much to do with him as a character; any number of heroes could have easily fit the same role.
Fortunately, Blue Beetle improves consistently after that. Bedard spends the next couple issues on team-ups, bringing Jaime more fully into the new DC Universe. He meets Green Lantern Kyle Rayner and some of the New Guardians (a team that brings a smile to my face despite myself), runs afoul of Director Bones and the DEO, and then has a dust-up with Booster Gold, which is a nice twist on the old Blue and Gold friendship. These stories each consist of more than just hero versus villain, and also reintroduce Jaime's friends and family to the story.
Having Brenda, Paco, and the rest appear for a couple issues is important, because for the last five issues, Bedard takes Jaime off Earth completely. The transition would be confusing -- Jaime's actual departure takes place in the pages of Justice League International Vol. 2: Breakdown, and there's a bit that ties into Green Lantern: New Guardians, too -- but Bedard makes good use of the Zero Month issue as a primer on the series in general, filling in the gaps from other titles. (An issue of New Guardians was supposed to be collected here, but ultimately was not, probably due to Blue Beetle's cancellation and the number of issues they had to fit into this trade.)
Whereas the first two issues of this collection didn't tie much to Jaime himself, the space adventure is all about Jaime and his scarab; two of his main antagonists, Lady Styx and Sky Witness, are both former hosts of Jaime's scarab. Jaime also re-encounters Khaji-Ka, another scarab who'd been hunting him, now turned ally. The space trip itself is a lot of fun; Bedard puts a bunch of sci-fi cliches to good use with a hijacked space ship and an alien cantina. Though Ig Guara and Marcio Takara handle most of the art duties, Scott McDaniel contributes an issue to the space story; after a disappointing run on Static Shock, McDaniel's art is nicely clear and energetic here.
I appreciated Bedard's Beetle-centric origin for Lady Styx, who in the old DC Universe was just a stock, origin-less space baddie. Throughout the story, Bedard stays true to the core of Jaime Reyes, a well-intentioned teenager thrust into a situation outside his control; I appreciated, for instance, that even though Sky Witness tries to kill him, Jaime still takes pity on Sky Witness and tries to recruit him as an ally later on. Bedard also ends Blue Beetle on just the right note, with a heartfelt message sent across the stars by Jaime to his family; Jaime's family, the core of the series, comes back around at the end.
At first the premise of Threshold, Keith Giffen's new series about a cosmic reality series where Lady Styx hunts the contestants, sounded hokey to me. Between Bedard's Lady Styx origin and his depiction of the show's sensationalism (a nice parallel to the Superfail website that hounds Jaime in the early chapters), I'm a bit more convinced. Blue Diamond ends on a good cliffhanger, and since Giffen and John Rogers wrote the original (and still best) adventures of Blue Beetle, the sole Threshold trade just got bumped a little higher on my list.
Blue Beetle Vol. 2: Blue Diamond is a pretty basic superhero story, nothing to stretch your brain but still plenty entertaining. I give DC points for shoving eleven issues in here without the paper feeling thin nor the covers curling as is sometimes a problem (though there's a lot of text that's difficult to read so close to the spine inside). For, let's say, a long airplane ride or a car trip, Blue Diamond's not a bad book to take along.
[Includes original covers]
Next week, a little Aquaman, a little Star Wars. See you then!