By CircularLogic 20 Comments
I, like many people, fell in love with the original volume of Jaime Reyes as the Blue Beetle. To me, it felt very similar to Robert Kirkman's Invincible, in that it was such a fun, almost optimistic series that just seemed in love with the very idea of being a superhero book, but all the while it was very much aware of the fact that it needed to have both conflict and drama to drive the story, and it definitely managed to pull it off. The setting and character dynamics were all fun and creative, and I really enjoyed following Jaime as he slowly came into his own as a hero. For me, the main theme behind the series was learning what it means to be a hero, even if you don't necessarily know what that means, and in some runs, such as the later arc where he has to confront the realities of illegal immigration, really sold that. It was a fantastic book, and it makes perfect sense to me why it became so beloved among comic fans.
That said, I really dislike the post-reboot volume, and I wish they just left the character as he was, because none of the changes really improve the story.
Now, there's plenty of little details to complain about when reading this volume. The spanglish gets annoying really fast, and I noticed that even when they're being translated, Tony Bedard still includes unnecessary spanish words and phrases as if to keep nudging us going "see? They're TOTALLY hispanic, honest", which really dehumanizes the characters, since it makes them all sound the same. I know Bedard is in fact hispanic himself, but that just makes it worse since he's going out of his way to make sure we understand their from mexico, instead of just letting natural interactions between characters reveal it as time goes on. I also hate the inclusion of the Flash Thompson-esque douchebag, and the rehashing of the "will they, won't they" between him and Brenda, especially since the last volume made it perfectly clear they won't. And that leads to the other most common complaint, the fact that everything we're reading is just kind of tedious to those familiar with the character, since it makes only the smallest of changes (how he got the scarab, the lack of Final Crisis in the story) to the origin as a whole. Jaime had already had his battle with the reach, so everything we're seeing is just being unnecessarily redone, especially since the Reach haven't changed much at all from the last volume.
But the real problems I have with this story are the dramatic shift in tone from the last one, and the flat out unnecessary changes to his supporting cast, which are just terrible, in my opinion.
First of all, I don't really have any kind of feel for Jaime in the new 52. Like, at all. In the first arc of the original solo series, the issues were split between him appearing one year later after the crisis, with flashbacks establishing who he was and who his friends were, as well as his family dynamic. We saw how his parents were strict, but also compassionate. We saw him have interact with his friends, and all the while get his origin told, which helps us care for him as a person. The new volume just shoves us in, and while we get some information, it doesn't make us care about him. In the 5 issues I've read, I can't properly describe Jaime other than the Mexican kid with armor whose confused about his new powers. Really sounds exciting, doesn't he. When you look at something like Swamp Thing, as a counter-example, we had a good 7 issues setting up who Alec Holland is and the situations surrounding him, and only after that did he become the Swamp thing. Blue Beetle should have taken the necessary time to do this, or have it told in a better way than they did
But that's all stuff that can be built up later, even though it was desperately needed when he was introduced. What I really dislike more than anything are the changes done to his supporting cast. Paco, his boastful, strong best friend with gang ties just doesn't feel the same. In the original, the "gang" he joined was just a bunch of guys trying to protect their home territory. In this one, they're full on bangers, complete with guns and low riders. Instead of seeing almost noble, despite being a goof, he just becomes a dumb kid with dumb, dangerous friends, who toes the line between being uninteresting and unlikable.
Brenda and her aunt also loose the dynamic that made them interesting. La Dama might have been a "bad guy", but she was still an ally of the Blue Beetle, an unlikely partnership driven by the fact that Brenda didn't know her aunt was a mob boss, and she wanted it kept that way since despite her faults, she did love her niece and wanted a good life for her. In this one, it seems like no pretense has even been made that La Dama hides her identity from Brenda, especially since Jaime's parents are completely aware of the fact that she's a mob boss, and armed guards are perfectly visible at her place. La Dama just seems like a standard Kingpin-esque villain now, and making her the one responsible for Jaime's powers just makes her unlikable, and to me destroys most of her chances of being at least somewhat sympathetic to us.
As for the tone, even more of what made the Blue Beetle great was lost. It's just much darker, and shares the same mood that Teen Titans and Superboy, the other Teen books, have, and neither of those books are that good. It feels very generic now, missing the same joy the original had going for it. Jaime feels like a kiddy Venom, having to wrestle over control with the scarab, unlike in the other where it felt a bit like a buddy cop comedy, where Jaime just told the scarab he wasn't going to kill anybody, and we all just shook are heads with a chuckle going "oooohhh that wacky alien". The series focused on the two understanding each other and becoming partners, whereas in this one it seems like it's just going to be a battle of wills, seeing whose stronger, the scarab or Jaime, and that is just so played out it's not even funny.
And I know some might feel I'm being unfair comparing the two books after a reboot, especially since I've used that argument to defend certain titles. And it is true that the new Blue beetle title could very well stand on it's own. But the reason that Blue Beetle was given his own series was because the original was so well received, and DC wanted to try and get that same success while using the sales push the new 52 provided to give the book the readership it felt it deserved. That's why the origin story and setting is still fairly close, in a VERY broad sense of the word, to the original. It's not like Batman, where people complaining about shifts between writers is sometimes petty because of how many writers have gone through it over the years. This book exists because of the old one, so you can't look at the new without comparing them together, and because of this, it fails utterly.
Of course, this is all my take. Is their anyone that actually prefers the new to the old, or disagrees with some of the specifics I've pointed out? Feel free to give me your thoughts on this, I'll be glad to hear them.