Blue Beetle: Rebirth #1 review

It's a typical day in El Paso, Texas. Teenager Jaime Reyes has said goodbye to his family and is walking to school with bickering pals Brenda and Paco when scientist Ted Kord calls him and says super-villains have attacked the local coffee house. Bad guys Rack and Ruin don't want to hurt anyone, particularly, but will if it's the only way to get Blue Beetle to fight them - they seem to be on an information-gathering exercise. And while Jaime accepts the responsibility that comes with the scarab attached to his spine, he's understandably wary of the hi-tech suit he can barely control. 

Mind, it can do some rather cool things. 
So, Blue Beetle gets his DC Rebirth and it's two for the price of one, as Jaime is mentored by Ted Kord, owner of the role in earlier continuities. Well, 'mentor' is overstating things, as Ted isn't giving Jaime a lot of advice during his encounter with the low-rent bad guys. Ted is hovering about the Sundollar coffee shop in his amazing Bug, talking to Jaime, but not offering much up in the way of suggestions. Jamie's hooked up with him in the hope Ted can help him detach the scarab, but Ted seems more interested in vicarious superheroing. One thing he does know is that the Blue Beetle suit is of alien origin...

It's so good to have Jaime back. He had a shortlived series during the New 52 period but tweaks to the original series made the strip less than it has been; this is much closer to the 2006 run, right down to the inclusion of Brenda's rather unusual aunt. 
I don't know how well scripter Keith Giffen - he's plotting with artist Scott Kolins - is capturing today's teenagers, but I don't much care; he's giving us three distinct, likeable characters in Jaime, Paco and Brenda and that'll do me. Having Ted Kord back - apparently older and certainly with better hair than in his few New 52 appearances - is the icing on the cake. His personality matches that of the Eighties Justice League Ted, the one everyone likes, making him a good foil for the more serious Jaime. And who can blame Jaime for not making jokes every ten seconds?
Rack and Ruin seem like disposable utility villains, but I do like their chattiness - they remind me of the Scullions from JL3001... 
Giffen does like a bit of banter, and it's a hoot that Rack and Ruin accuse Jaime of being chatty. As a change of pace, he lets us see just one side of the conversations between Jaime and Ted when they're on the phone to one another and it's fun to imagine the other side of things. Then there's a nice nod to ancient Batman stories.   
The illustrations of Kolins - last seen alongside Giffen on Justice League 3001 - are excellent, telling the story with economy and flair. The action scenes have as much energy as any presumed–alien outfit, while the downtime moments are quietly joyous. My favourite image is the moment Jaime leaps into action, he looks great as positioned by Kolins and coloured by Romulo Fajardo Jr. A few pages have a spotty frame, which isn't Kolins avoiding backgrounds, as they're inside the panels, he's just giving the book it's own visual identity. And kudos to the creators for also giving us a proper old-fashioned splash page introducing Jaime's narration. 
Kolins also draws and colours the cover, which reminds me - likely deliberately - of the work of Ted Kord creator Steve Ditko. Cully Hamner, who co-created Jaime Reyes, is back for the variant and it's great to see him draw the character again. 

After the last series I was afraid DC would bungle another relaunch, but Giffen, Kolins and co have produced a refreshing comic that takes the best of the past and, with the inclusion of Ted, adds something new. Don't miss it. 

Comments

  1. Interesting that Ted Kord is the "breath of fresh air" for this comic, isn't it?

    Page three really won me over to the book, with Paco, Brenda, and Jaime chatting. As you note, it might not be modern teenage lingo or activity (not one of them has a phone in their hands until Jaime gets a call) but it is filled with heart.

    Kolins is frequently hit or miss for me. I loved his work on the Flash, but haven't really been enthusiastic about much since. I like the way he's shifted Jaime's suit to more of a bug-like appearance, but it feels as though he might still be working some things out. Regardless, he's reliable, and his storytelling is solid, so I think it's only fair to not judge his art too harshly on this first issue.

    Jaime's a favorite of mine (as Ted was before), so I was already invested in the title. Bring on Keith Giffen for the story and I'm all in. Giffen had a mission with his Doom Patrol run to introduce a new character or concept in every issue. I can't say that is his mission statement here, but he certainly is off to a great start if it is.

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    1. Thanks so much for the comments, Doug. I love the idea that Giffen likely has a mission here too. I wonder if we're getting Teri from JL3001 as a guest, what with the way that book ended - or rather, stopped.

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  2. Never collected the Jaime Blue Beetle but I am going to try it, trusting these creators. Your review sealed the deal.

    Rack and Ruin look sort of Heckler-like, don't you think?

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    1. And here's my admission - I never read Heckler! I did recently buy Vext on eBay...

      I certainly recommend the Giffen/John Rogers/Hamner series.

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  3. So glad you gave this a good review, Martin - will be picking up my copy in a couple of days and am really looking forward to it.

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    1. Let us know what you think of it if you get a chance!

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  4. I wrote a review based on this issue too, and it really felt like it could actually go somewhere that isn't always dark and not often explored. I just hope they don't cancel the series like they did back when the new 52 started.

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    1. Hi Antman, I'd love a link, see what you had to say!

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  5. Having Ted back can't hurt - it always seemed like a vague case of ageism/race swapping when they killed off Ted to make way for Jamie..why COULDN'T there be room for both? They're fictional characters; neither has to be dead to exist.

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    1. Ted's death and Jaime's ascendance weren't linked and separated by some time. If you're going to reused a name from multiple failed heroes, why not do something besides White breeders with it?

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    2. Comicbookrehab, I can't remember if I read something at the time, but I think Ted was killed off to make way for Jaime, more that Dan DiDio wanted a shocking moment, and someone came up with the idea of a new Blue Beetle.

      Steve, 'white breeders'? I'm pretty sure Jaime was at least straight, didn't he had a thing for Traci 13?

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    3. I just wanted to say White breeder is all. We all know Jaime was a breeder but he was not only a Latino one but due to his age and tropes, an ineffective one...

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    4. There were fans of "Young Justice" who enjoyed 'shipping Impulse and Jaime as a potential gay couple..fanmade "Bluepulse" music videos probably still live on YouTube.

      I imagine Dan Didio enjoyed the parallel to "Crisis On Infinite Earths" - killing off one incarnation and introducing a new one. I doubt there was any "Oh, hey, we could also do this!", because I don't think Didio thought Ted was particularly popular. The Dan Didio of 2005 is not the Dan Didio of 2016..

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    5. I never knew about the YJ shipping... I really just get that cartoon watched, I've only seen about two episodes and they're all here on the old tablet at Netflix or Amazon. Please tell me Miss Martian stops saying 'Oh Megan' or whatever all the time!

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    6. @Steve: Wow. "Breeders," really? Offensive much? Plus, the previous B.B.'s were hardly failures.

      @Martin: You and your "Oh, Megan!" You protest too much. I know you LOVE it. ;P

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    7. Hel-LO, Martin! That's part of her charm in the first season!

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  6. So no one else was severely irritated by Ted's treatment of Jaime? Jaime told him repeatedly what eh wanted and how he wanted to do things and Ted completely disregarded Jaime on every page he appeared on. I guess since Rack and Ruin were taking over Ted's JLI role of moron, complete asshole was the next thing Giffen could think up for Ted. I wanted to love this book. I liked Ted's very generic series post-Crisis, I adored Jaime's first book as much as I hated the dumbed down, passively racist New 52 version, and I was looking forward to loving this book. Either Ted goes or displays some belief that even one thought of Jaime's has validity or I won't make it through the first arc of this disappointment...

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    1. Ted was certainly pretty rubbish as supposed advisers go, Jaime would be a lot better off with Martin Stein or Jason Rausch. Still, it's the first issue, I expect Ted will be made to get his act together. Giffen does like to have an arrogant arse in his cast.

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    2. Ted's terrible approach to superheroics feels like a planned thing the book is setting up to tackle later down the line. Then again, the Beetle's most high profile thing until they maybe make a movie is the Brave and the Bold cartoon where Jaime bonded with a Ted who actually turned out to be his evil uncle who just conveniently looked exactly like Ted. Or since Dr. Fate's hinting there's more tot he Scarab than just being alien tech, maybe it's expending some kind of influence over Ted, the man who wants to be a superhero a little too much, that it can't over Jaime, the kid who doesn't really want to be a superhero.

      In any event, it seems like the books goal is to deal with the questionable side of hero and teen protege stories the same way every Aquaman series deals with the talks to fish gags. For better and worse.

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    3. I really like your idea about the scarab exerting a negative influence - and when they overcome it Ted makes Jaime a more techie Beetle?

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    4. Ted could be an asshole but a lovable one. When the chips were down you could count on him, and that's why basically everyone loved him, not to mention comparing him to Gold or Gardner, Ted was a saint. :p

      At the time of Ted's death, while he was generally respected, his reputation put him in jeopardy, plus all the "big" heroes had taken him (and other heroes like him) for granted. It was only when he died that the super heroes woke up to that fact.

      Similarly, I think, unlike Beetle fans, there was a "taken for granted"/ "you don't know what you have until it's gone" attitude with Ted. Martin, I remember reading what you had, about making it shocking. With the cover, (different perspective but similar to Crisis #7) I think it was also a Crisis-like way of making readers realize this was serious business. I also think I read where taking a character that is taken for granted or not as A-list and kill them can make a person care more about that character. Certainly there was that after Ted was killed off.

      Ted's death, however, also came at a time where Identity Crisis and the (sickening) rape and death of Sue Dibney and the grimdark aspect of it was popular, so Infinite Crisis continued that. However, Reyes appeared soon after, so it's tough not to think that a new legacy character would come into play, and with the desire for diverse characters, added with the popularity of Teen Titans and Ultimate Spider-Man, it would have only made sense to create Jaime Reyes. It may be interesting to note that Kord first appeared in 1996 and Reyes in 2006. When Reye's costume first appeared, the scarab "feet" on his chest promoted questioning if it was deliberate and a clue to something more with them also looking like a stylized number "52."

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    5. I'd never seen the legs as a '52' - how fascinating!

      I think you can stop short of death when it comes to making people care about a character - that very issue in which he was killed did a great job of making him someone other than the loveable buffoon of JLI days. As it was, two characters died that day, as Max Lord became toxic.

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  7. Oh and have you read Karnak or Ulysses? I'm wondering if the new take on Karnak is a British thing I don't have the right sensibilities to enjoy? I love all of Ellis' other Marvel work and Ewing is amazing but Karnak and Ulysses just seem gross and weird for teh sake of being gross and weird. Karnak comes off to me also as not an enigmatic heroic asshole but just an asshole...

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    1. Oh heck, now you've made me curious about Karnak, I'll have to check out Marvel Unlimited. I've not read Ulysses either, and likely won't be bothering, I've no interest in the current Marvel crossover.

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  8. I fully expected to love this.. and didn't, somehow. I liked the banter of Rack and Ruin, and I liked the banter of Jaime's friends... but Ted and Jaime didn't spark for me. I think I'll give it another issue or two to see if it improves. But it says something about how good Rebirth has been in general that a book with this much going for it might not make my cut.

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    1. Oh, that's a shame. Maybe it will become more your cup of tea in time.

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    2. Part of me hopes so. Not the wallet part of me, that could really use something to drop, but the other parts.

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    3. Eye really liked Rack n Ruin's polite banter kinda reminded me of Mac an Tosh the polite goofy gophers from Bugs Bunny

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  9. To be honest,this issue felt like filler - a build-up on a scene we already saw in the initial "Rebirth" one-shot. Maybe the proper #1 will fix the "bug issues" :)

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    1. Ha, nice one! There is a theory that the Rebirth issues were ordered after the number ones, hence a lot of repetition and filler. Thankfully, I'm pretty much enjoying it all.

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    2. I had bought the Hal Jordan Rebirth because I had been enjoying pretty much all the Rebirth that I had read, and was happy that we had a sense of a recap or "orign" to what is going to happen in the book and was surprised at how lost I was reading it. It didn't make me want to buy anything else from it. I had thus thought the Rebirth Issues were a New 52 Zero Issue coming rightly beforehand but wondered why some comics didn't have any, such as Superwoman. The theory would definitely make sense, though not the best news on editorial.

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  10. I'd forgotten you reviewed this - I didn't want to read it before I read the issue (which I did last Saturday). I really liked it, and will be following the series itself at least for a bit. It was fun and I like the characters,except, oddly, Ted so much; he's a bit of an ass here, but I'm willing to give him the benefit of doubt for now and assume he's just too excited over the scarab.

    I'd never read Jaime's previous series, as the first came out when I had stopped reading comics for the most part for over a decade, and when the new 52 started it just didn't pique my interest. This was definitely interesting, and the Ditkoesque cover sealed the deal.

    I'm looking forward to the proper start of the series!

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    1. I wonder if it's this week... I love that this one issue has gotten so much comment. DC may be onto something!

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  11. really liked this issue but Ted could really use some work mentoring Jaime

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    1. He definitely needs to go on a course.

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