Up until now this series has simmered rather than boiled, offering a solid mix of mystery, adventure, drama and light comic relief, with a long-term ongoing story arc. Unfortunately, it’s mainly that last part which has led to an overall sense that it’s been meandering along with little direction. It wasn’t bad and clearly there was a long-term plan, but it just seemed to lack focus. We review Blue Beetle #8.
The Scarab has been ripped from the body of Jaime Reyes – Blue Beetle – by Arion, who now wields it for evil in a battle against Doctor Fate. With Jaime now getting his wish that he could be rid of it, he’s now forced in a position he hasn’t faced in a while: being normal. Facing a world where Arion’s darkness is slowly spreading and infecting people, including Jaime’s mother, there’s little Jaime can do because he’s no longer a hero. Or is he?
It’s hard to tell if there’s been some change in that plan, but there’s certainly a sense of new excitement and urgency in Blue Beetle #8. The creative re-teaming that everyone demanded (okay, perhaps not, but when they work together it’s a treat) has led to writer JM DeMatteis once again teaming up with Keith Giffen, and the payoff is almost immediate… although perhaps not in the ways which readers might imagine.
While Giffen and DeMatteis as a team are best known in the past for making the Justice League funny, individually they’ve also helped bring about some of the best eras of the Legion of Superheroes, Doctor Fate, The Spectre and various other fantasy and horror comics. As for their more comedic tales, alongside the jokes were moments of genuine pathos and an impressive ability to bring depth to the many characters.
Arion’s battle against Doctor Fate allows the mystical side of the DCU to be represented honestly. Meanwhile, as the emotional story progresses for Jaime, something’s got to give and it’s up to him to work out what kind of a hero he wants to be… or if it’s time to hand the reins back over to his mentor Ted Kord.
While one of the covers may hint at the resolution, the reveal is a process which unfolds logically. After all, someone has to be the Blue Beetle in a Blue Beetle comic book, but it’s about why and how. It reads like an origin story which really is a rebirth.
There are flaws, to be sure. The pacing seems slightly off, and the infection of evil doesn’t really convey the ominous sense of menace which it should, but it’s also a step in the right direction. It’s hard when a new writer comes on board mid-way through a story arc, but thankfully some great groundwork was done in the build-up to this issue so there’s a stable foundation.
Up until now, the Rebirth of Blue Beetle hasn’t been a must-read series when compared with the higher profile DC titles. While this series still has some way to go to reach those levels, Blue Beetle #8 offers genuine hope for readers and fans.