Review: Blue Beetle Vol. 2: Hard Choices (Rebirth) trade paperback (DC Comics)


In its seven issues, the Rebirth Blue Beetle Vol. 2: Hard Choices is more focused, bringing the book’s initial arc to a close, and at its start, leans heavily into this book’s family and personal drama, to its benefit. There’s also a fantastic moment of confluence between Blue Beetles old and new halfway through that’s really the culmination of Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis' work with these characters. All of that more than makes up for a book that does get a little long by the end and also too silly for my tastes; but with Giffen and DeMatteis departing after the start of the next trade, it seems very much they’ve accomplished what they set out to do.

[Review contains spoilers]

Hard Choices kicks off in the aftermath of a villain going after Blue Beetle Jaime Reyes' mother in order to get to his scarab, with Jaime and his close-knit family and friends all dealing with the shock of the incident. In short order, Jaime has indeed been stripped of the scarab, leading to still more concern and recriminations — about Jaime’s health, about who will stop the crazed Atlantean wizard Arion, and about the citizens of El Paso slowly being turned to demon insects (who, not coincidentally, bearing a passing resemblance to Ambush Bug). As I’ve mentioned before, family is where Giffen and company’s Blue Beetle shines, more about these people and how they care for and worry about one another more than fighting supervillains (which shows pointedly in Jaime’s long-time enemy being the aunt and guardian of his best friend), and that’s well-enacted in the first three chapters.

The book’s crowning glory, however — the moment you’ve been waiting for but didn’t know it since Jaime found the scarab in the first place — is at the end of the third chapter into the beginning of the fourth, when Jaime dons Blue Beetle Ted Kord’s old costume. The premise here is predictable, if not specious, that no sooner is Jaime stripped of the scarab that he’s been trying to get rid of all along, he wants it back so he can play hero again. Be that as it may, the result, that Jaime takes on the mantle of the previous Blue Beetle not just figuratively, but also literally, is a wonderful applause moment, truly cementing the Blue Beetle legacy. Not that this never could have happened when Jaime was first introduced, but it wouldn’t have been nearly as satisfying without Ted alive, and in that way this weird Rebirth series has served its purpose. All the more fitting that longtime architects of Blue Beetles former and current, Giffen and DeMatteis, are in the driver’s seat for it.

Again, all of these elements carry Hard Choices pretty far. I rather wish we’d gotten to see more of Jaime as the mortal Blue Beetle outside of fighting Arion, but that fades rather fast. Instead, most of the next couple chapters involve the various heroes running hither and yon, fighting Arion’s minions, and long pages of Arion pontificating. Over two or three chapters, I began to feel some of this might be trimmed a little. I did appreciate Giffen taking the opportunity to tie together a number of his recent works — Justice League 3000, Sugar and Spike (though they really don’t get a chance to do much) and OMAC Kevin Kho, but none of that was quite enough to make the proceedings truly riveting.

As well, the last two chapters are devoted to comedic villain Ghostfire, who worries if his codename is too melodramatic and whether his plan to destroy the city will leave him anything to enjoy afterward. I feel these kind of self-referential antics are a trademark of Giffen/DeMatteis productions, what has clearly served them well over the years but has never been to my liking. Add to that a very boilerplate Batman appearance in which the Dark Knight stalks around for the entire issue, finds fault with everything, and then decides in the span of a panel, when Jaime yells at him, that maybe Jaime’s all right after all. I found this too fairly predictable and safe, and not as funny as I think these chapters thought themselves to be.

Artist Scott Kolins does fine work throughout and, no small matter, I’m pleased to see him continuing to the next volume even after Giffen and DeMatteis leave, which offers some continuity for the title (this would matter more if the book weren’t then ending). I think perhaps I found the faces a little sharper when Kolins was being inked by Doug Hazelwood once upon a time, but neither can I fault him inking himself. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the variant covers, which have for a while been done by Cully Hamner, artist on some of Jaime’s original Infinite Crisis-era adventures. Tyler Kirkham and Tomeu Morey have a poster-worthy image of Jaime suiting up in Ted’s old costume, though some of their later covers portray Jaime as something of an “extreme” hero instead of the gangly kid he is.

Support Collected Editions -- Purchase Blue Beetle Vol. 2: Hard Choices



Looking ahead after Blue Beetle Vol. 2: Hard Choices, the final arc will be by Christopher Sebela, a DC Writers Workshop graduate whose work on Harley Quinn I wasn’t so sure about, so we’ll see how this turns out. I am interested to see what’s essentially a final, one-off Jaime Reyes story before this book ends, and whether — because I don’t think it’s a sure thing — Sebela uses Ted Kord in his story or not. We’ll see.

[Includes original and variant covers]

Comments ( 3 )

  1. I ended up ordering the remaining volumes of Venditti’s Hawkman that I need to read the whole thing, but for some reason the second one is hard to get, and it seems to be on back order from the place I went through.

    In somewhat more related news, there was. Booster Gold appearance somewhere in this particular series? I think? And that’s basically all I’ve read of it. Assuming this is the right series. And I have the right hazy memory.

    1. Booster's not in any of the three volumes of the Rebirth series, but he did cameo in the New 52 series.

    2. Ah. So I’m even further behind than I thought.


To post a comment, you may need to temporarily allow "cross-site tracking" in your browser of choice.

Newer Post Home Older Post