Blue Beetle #1 feels like it’s all over the place. There’s a lot of disparate elements going on in the issue that separately are interesting, but when combined into one book, result in a diffuse mishmash of plot points that never settle into one narrative, and a central relationship that winds up more irritating than engaging. It’s too bad, too, because there’s a ton of potential on display that could coalesce into an effective and entertaining series, but the execution needs tightening up.
In the opening pages of Blue Beetle #1, creative team Keith Giffen and Scott Kolins set up a mystery that only matters for about three pages before being dropped completely. That’s not the worst thing, given that this will undoubtedly be an ongoing plot point moving forward, but it’s odd to start the first issue of your series with an extended continuity-dependent dream sequence being discussed by characters the reader hasn’t technically been introduced to yet. I know, I know, this book continues some plot points and characters from Blue Beetle’s “Rebirth” one-shot and earlier series. But, maybe jumping right into that for your first three pages is a bit much for a #1 issue that should also be trying to attract new readers.
We then jump directly into Jaime Reyes’ fraught and uneasy relationship with Ted Kord. I liked the way this was positioned in the “Rebirth” issue, but think it’s handled much less successfully here. I actually don’t like Ted Kord at all here. He seems almost dangerously and blithely unconcerned for anything Jaime is trying to get across, as well as how easily he puts the kid in danger. I’m all for a relationship that shows Ted living vicariously through Jaime, and how screwed up that is, but I get the sense that the writers still want us to think Ted’s basically a good person, and I really didn’t think he was in this issue. He just seemed like a jerk who was actively unhelpful to the teenager he’s encouraging to jump headlong into danger.
So, the first issue features a foreboding dream sequence, the set up of Jaime’s friends, his relationship with Ted, a battle against a bad guy, and the introduction of a group of super-powered people that may or may not be a threat (we aren’t sure only because, maddeningly, Ted won’t simply confirm one way or the other to Jaime). There’s a lot here for a first issue, and the lack of focus makes me not really care all that much about most of it.
As I said above, however, there’s potential here. The Jaime/Ted partnership has real possibilities. The team just needs to make Ted more than a relentless wise-ass, because without a clear motivation he just seems like a jerk Jaime’s better off far away from. Jaime is a solidly compelling character, and I always like the idea of a super-hero who just wants to stop being a super-hero. I could care less about the Posse, but I wonder if that’s because they’re so ill-defined here.
Scott Kolins’ art continues to have an old-school, Silver Age vibe that meshes well with the character, even as his sketchier style gives the book a modern feel. The Blue Beetle’s world feels weird and unconventional, which is a good tone, given the types of characters involved and their relationships. There are some moments in the climatic battle where things got a bit vague and cluttered, notably a sequence that shows how Jaime eventually wins the day that maybe isn’t set up as well as it could have been. I got the progression of action after a quick re-scan, but it still could have used an extra panel of set-up, I think.
All in all, while I’d say I managed to enjoy Blue Beetle #1, I definitely would have preferred the issue had done a little less and instead devoted more time to making the central relationship more engaging. As it is, if I can’t get behind this partnership, I can’t see myself continuing on with the book. Which is too bad because a little tightening of focus would made the book a lot more fun. 5.5/10