Review: Blue Beetle Vol. 3: Road to Nowhere (Rebirth) trade paperback (DC Comics)

With Blue Beetle Vol. 3: Road to Nowhere, Christopher Sebela arrives as one of less than half a dozen writers, I think, to write the adventures of Jaime Reyes, which is notable given the character is on his third series. The writer does a fine job, with an emphasis on Jaime and his young friends (which has been present before but heretofore missing in this iteration of the series), returning some of the “teen book” aesthetic to the title.

I would venture that the “Road” story starts and ends better than its middle, and upon reaching the end in no way did I think this book’s cancellation was unjustified. Again, however, I’m pleased to think Jaime is still bopping around out there somewhere, and even if recent appearances include getting dragged awkwardly into the Year of the Villain: Infected crossover, at least we know the character hasn’t slipped DC Comics' mind entirely (Blue Beetles new and old, for that matter).

[Review contains spoilers]

Following a first-issue final story by outgoing team Keith Giffen and JM DeMatteis, Sebela kicks off the four-issue-and-epilogue “Road to Nowhere” with series artist Scott Kolins (and Tom Derenick, whom the title seems to suit better than most). Jaime, flush with cash from working for former Beetle Ted Kord, sets off on an end-of-summer road trip with friends Paco and Brenda and girlfriend Naomi, upon which they’re promptly captured by (what seem to be) aliens. Sebela’s leans heavily into teen superhero trappings here — Jaime hasn’t told Naomi about his Blue Beetling, so Brenda and Paco have to cover for him when things go awry; Paco and Brenda, it turns out, have started a relationship, causing Jaime much teen angst about change and being out of touch with his friends while he’s been Beetling; and everyone’s feeling feelings about their senior year of high school and things coming to an end (a metaphor, for sure, for the book’s impending cancellation).

[See the latest DC trade solicitations.]

It’s got the tone of DC’s 1990s Robin and the like, filling a gap in the Rebirth at the titles at the time. Even now, DC hasn’t had much like this beside Sideways, maybe, a real “kid superhero living at home and going to high school” kind of title — Naomi is another, but Young Justice wouldn’t quite fit the bill given its more fanciful base than a title like Beetle or the others. Jumping over the middle of this book, there’s more of the same at the end, with Naomi finding out Jaime’s dual identity and all the angst that goes along with that, plus Jaime still trying to prove himself to Ted and decide what he wants to do with his future. I would have been happy for Sebela to have continued on the title and to have read more along these lines.

Where Sebela went astray, I thought, was about the third chapter, where he introduces the villain du jour with the laughable handle “Stopwatch.” As Sebela’s Stopwatch tells Jaime, “My real name’s not important. Nothing about me is. Totally normal guy,” and that he “happened to figure out how to build a time machine” as if that’s just no great feat. Here, I think Sebela confuses sparseness for expediency; we get ultimately no personal details for Stopwatch, such that there’s nothing to make him particularly compelling, and yet Sebela still has him drone on for two pages irrespective.

In this, curiously, Sebela’s story suffers from much the same ills as Keith Giffen’s and Giffen and DeMatteis' in Blue Beetle Vol. 1: The More Things Change and Blue Beetle Vol. 2: Hard Choices. That is, there’s a villain who’s a little silly (and given to pontificating) and a story without much surprise (the good guys are right, the bad guys are wrong) and with no real sense of suspense or danger. Again, I appreciate the “teen title” hole that Beetle fills, and perhaps that lends itself to a certain all-ages approach, but I maintain there must be a way to do it that doesn’t result in a watered-down title that I simply can’t see gaining mainstream acclaim. That this iteration of the Blue Beetle title was cancelled wasn’t a surprise — it was readable, it wasn’t embarrassing, and it had great moments, but I’m not sure it was ever consistently good.

Giffen and DeMatteis' sole issue here introduces Jaime to their Justice League 3000, a self-referential tangent I can’t really blame them for. The headline for that one is that the writers reveal cosmic villain Lady Styx to be Brenda’s Aunt Amparo, aka the crime boss La Dama. Amparo has been a thorn in Jaime’s side in previous Blue Beetle incarnations and I wondered previously what Giffen and DeMatteis would do this time to make the revelation of Amparo’s villainy any different. This definitely counts as “different,” tying La Dama to Styx (whom Giffen helped create). Not that the writers get to do anything with it, and not that we’ve any guarantee any other writers will either, but it was a good parting shot on Giffen and DeMatteis' part.



Seeing the comings of a friend-focused story in Blue Beetle Vol. 3: Road to Nowhere, I wondered how large a role Beetle Ted Kord would play in Christopher Sebela’s Jaime Reyes story. The answer is a sufficient amount, with Ted featured prominently with Jaime in Sebela’s final story, suggesting Ted’s presence would continue had the series gone on. But the seams are showing: when Jaime complains to Ted, “You put in a new AI and of course it takes over and wants to kill us,” the truth of the situation is not just that Jaime could predict what’s happening, but that the reader could, too. That’s as good a time as any to take a bow.

[Includes original and variant covers]


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