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‘Blue Beetle: Black and Blue”: A Comic Review

This is the first superhero comic to be reviewed on the blog, and there’s nothing better than one of my favorite characters, Blue Beetle. Rather, I should be specific and say Jaime (pronounced Haimay) Reyes as the Blue Beetle. The Blue Beetle is a ‘legacy hero’ meaning that his role as hero is passed on among several individuals (Robin is the best example of a legacy hero). This run of Blue Beetle was only 36 issues before it was cancelled due to low sales. In the course of the series there have been 4 main writers and 3 artists (the most notable being Rafael Albuquerque). Up until the fourth trade there was a consistent plot line, but the fifth and sixth were more of one shots. This review is focused on the sixth and final trade.

Writing:

As mentioned already this entire volume consists of one shot issues. While I don’t have a problem with one shots, it really sucks here since the series run/character aren’t given a proper send off. The writing for the most part is pretty generic and tailored at fights against villains who are introduced and then defeated in the same issue. There is one issue where this becomes trickier and actually sets up a nice take on morality by juxtaposing Jaime and Dan Garrett (the original) as the Blue Beetle fighting the same villain, and in the end creates some good development for Jaime. But there are some glaring issues with this trade, particularly Issue #36.

First off, it sucks. I say this for several reasons. It’s cliche in its quick introduction of villains and then doing a quick fight that isn’t really satisfactory for the power they’re given. It’s over in a few pages and doesn’t really wrap it up. The most glaring issue though is the issue of morality contradicted from earlier. Supposedly, Jaime had developed earlier, but that’s not at all apparent here. This issue presents the only time a series character dies, in front of Jaime, but he doesn’t react AT ALL. He later mentions her funeral with the same weight he would in telling someone he had gotten the mail from the mailbox. And is seen smiling, and happy, just a few panels later. This was a perfect example where writer Matthew Sturges could have expanded and developed Jaime in an interesting way before the series conclusion, but instead chooses to focus on small side stories after the main issue conflict. In fact, there’s more of these side stories than the actual plot. My theory is that they used this as form of giving weight to the final issue. But, why did these side stories have to exist when there was so much potential with the main plot. Not only that the pacing in the issue is horrid. Where did the great build-up earlier go in the series? Issue $36 is just written poorly.

Design:

The design is much better than the writing. It’s nothing to write home about. It’s typical superhero-comic use of panels.

Art:

The art for the most part is nice. It is definitely in the style of most DC comics. The fight scenes look nice and are the real draw of this trade, so they’re given the most attention. The character models are fairly good and follow the trends for the series. However, there are two glaring faults. Guess where? You guessed it. Issue #36. In this issue there is a scene where a mouth in the middleground (that’s what I’m calling the space between foreground and background) has her jaw open far past anatomical norms. The other is Brenda (Jaime’s childhood friend), also in the middleground, though a different panel, has a misshapen chin and mouth. I don’t understand why artist Mike Norton got so lazy with drawing these panels. Especially on the last issue. As well as considering that everything else is pretty solid in that issue…at least in terms of the art.

(Note: I would normally have art here, but there isn’t available as far as I can from Mike Norton’s tenure as artist. If you can find some I would appreciate the links.)

Final Opinion:

For the most part this is a fairly okay set of issues. While they’re not as good as the first four trades of the series, they’re not awful, just standard. However, the atrocious writing in Issue #36 brings this volume down several notches. I’m a fan of this Blue Beetle run, but I hated Matthew Sturges lack of interest in giving Jaime proper characterization. What is present seems more along the lines of ‘Superdickery’ than anything seen by Jaime in the entirety of the series run. I recommend the series, but I can’t say the same for this volume. Exclusively for Issue #36. Great series, mediocre volume.

Blue Beetle: Black and Blue is owned and published by DC Comics. Written by Matthew Sturges and drawn by Mike Norton.

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