Review: Blue Beetle Vol. 1: The More Things Change (Rebirth) trade paperback (DC Comics)

February 3, 2021

 ·  5 comments

Blue Beetle Vol 1 The More Things Change

Artist Patrick Zircher was just wondering on Twitter the other day about how buddy comedies have slipped the zeitgeist. Though not necessarily billed as such, the inaugural Rebirth Blue Beetle Vol. 1: The More Things Change fits the mold, perhaps not such a surprise from Keith Giffen, who’s delivered over time some of the most lasting of DC Comics’ comedy moments.

This book struggles under the weight of its history — this is Beetle Jaime Reyes' third series and his second to lead out from a reboot, meaning we’ve seen writers reinvent Jaime’s status quo twice now. Giffen was part of that original Jaime Reyes Blue Beetle team, the best incarnation, post-Infinite Crisis; while Tony Bedard did well with the New 52 title, he never quite caught the snappy dialogue of the original, and neither does Giffen here. We’ve seen Jaime’s relationship with the beetle scarab evolve, we’ve seen certain friends revealed as enemies, and so taking that journey again for the third time seems tired.

The addition of Blue Beetle Ted Kord to the mix — the aforementioned buddy comedy — helps to differentiate the story somewhat but not a lot. It seems Giffen wants to trade on our existing knowledge about the two characters except when he doesn’t, and that — like many reboots of the same type — pulls a lot of the emotional heft from the story. But don’t get me wrong — Giffen’s first Rebirth Blue Beetle volume is wholly passable, and if nothing else I love that DC keeps giving Jaime, his friends Paco and Brenda, and the rest another shot even if it never ends up lasting.

[Review contains spoilers]

We have, again, seen a few different reconfigurations of Jaime Reyes and his supporting cast. One change this book makes, perhaps the best aspect so far of the new series, is that Jaime’s mother Blanca, a physician, is now offering medical services to the metahuman gang the Posse, at potential risk to her own life. Blue Beetle has always been at its best when it’s about family — a veritable superhero sitcom — and the face-off between mother and son is great (at the end of a very strange chapter overall). Roles here are all mixed up — parents want to protect child who’s a superhero, child-superhero feels guardianship over parents — and that makes for the good drama that differentiated Blue Beetle when it first came out.

The premise of this Blue Beetle incarnation, if we set the others aside for a moment, is that Jaime has gone to inventor Ted Kord for help in detaching an alien scarab from his back, but that Ted seems intent on coaching Jaime to be a superhero instead. That’s fine in and of itself, but it gets confusing late in the book when it’s revealed (as we all already knew) that Ted himself was once the superhero Blue Beetle. Does the coincidence puzzle Jaime at all (it’s suggested Ted, for his part, knows more than he’s saying)? And why, seeking medical help, is Jaime willing to be pressed into superhero service at all?

Giffen seems to take the Beetles' established characterizations — Ted as former Justice Leaguer, Jaime as kid superhero — and graft them on the current paradigm, but not in a way that makes sense when you dig into it. Does Jaime not want to be a superhero at all? And if not, what then? It makes it hard to feel for the characters because I think Giffen relies too much on what we’re supposed to know instead of building afresh.

This push and pull seeps into other areas as well. Obviously Giffen can’t use the post-Crisis Infinite Crisis/Shazam-related origin for Jaime any more than Tony Bedard could for the New 52 Blue Beetle Vol. 1: Metamorphosis, but Bedard at least had Jaime become the Beetle to save Paco. Giffen’s origin in Things Change is total happenstance — Jaime just happens to see the scarab floating in a lake — and that’s disappointing given how much more relevant or thematically tied-in the origin could have been. In a similar vein, Jaime’s arch-enemy La Dama returns, secretly Brenda’s Aunt Amparo — but we’re back to neither Jaime nor Brenda knowing her identity. Last time, the fallout from that revelation was a big deal, but surely Giffen can’t expect to do the very same thing over again and have it have the same result.

Giffen’s 1980s-style banter humor remains hit or miss — I was high on Giffen’s self-loathing Doom Patrol, though his Justice League 3000 got a little silly for my tastes (and I’m in trouble, I know). This new Beetle, so far, hasn’t raised much of a chuckle, with the childish bantering between teenage Jaime and adult Ted coming off more juvenile than hilarious. To its credit, Giffen’s Beetle goes a long time between action sequences (again with a focus on family drama instead), but as such one of the main “fights” is between Jaime and a Posse member who keeps trying to get Jaime to accept her advances, insulting him and flailing and destroying a neighborhood in the process. I think this is meant to be comedy, but it comes off just strange instead.

Support Collected Editions -- Purchase Blue Beetle Vol. 1: The More Things Change

2.5

Rating

All of that said, I am glad Jaime Reyes got to head a series again, even if this one too didn’t last. Blue Beetle Vol. 1: The More Things Change rather seems like the series Keith Giffen should have been given at the start of the New 52 or even after Blackest Night or something — Ted Kord and Jaime Reyes teamed up, which has always kind of been the dream, even when it didn’t make sense to do it and doesn’t wholly make sense now. But two more volumes to go and maybe good things are around the corner.

[Includes original and variant covers, sketches by Scott Kolins]

Comments ( 5 )

  1. It still surprises me that as big a fan as I was of the original Jaime Reyes comics I never pursued the two reboots. Well, I can always play catch-up.

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    1. Now's as good a time as any, I'm finding! ☺️

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    2. I’ve certainly been pursuing more graphic novels recently. I just ordered the last Venditti Hawkman (still need to read the first two), and the last November from Matt Fraction is due in a few weeks. Finally read two of Neil Gaiman’s ‘90s efforts, including the excellent Mr. Punch.

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  2. this series tried to be "too big" for the character, the main problem was this series should have told smaller type stories ...as the series progresses , you will see what i mean

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    1. That does make sense. I don't necessarily mind a series going big in it's inaugural arc, but additionally there were pacing issues, lack of suspense, etc. I imagine you found more favor with the third book's smaller story?

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