STORY: Tony Bedard
ART: Ig Guara and JP Mayer
One constant throughout Blue Beetle thus far has been the misunderstanding concerning the scarab attached to Jaime Reyes’ back and whether he presents a threat to the human race. it doesn’t help that the scarab is, in fact, a tool of an warmongering intergalactic cult known as the Reach, or that a few questionable pictures pinning Jaime as a violent menace have received worldwide media coverage. Add to that a piece of scarab getting lodged in Jaime’s friend Paco – turning him into a bloodthirsty Reach solider – and you get one hell of a story about a kid just trying to understand what’s happening to him.
If Jaime’s predicaments sound familiar, they are. Much of how Tony Bedard tells Beetle’s story is symbolic of normal, regular, everyday teenage issues. Now a part of his body, the Reach armor continues to surprise Jaime with new and unusual abilities, an element of this narrative that parallels the changing bodies of teenagers, however uncomfortable that is to type. Similarly, the pictures and video of Blue Beetle lashing out at innocent people has turned Jaime into an enemy of the state purely because of miscommunication and out-of-context situations, both sentiments of which almost any teenager has had to endure from their parents, school administrators, police, and adults in general. Lastly, the constant scarab “voice” in Jaime’s head is representative of the many new elements of a teenager’s life that influence his/her decisions and actions. There are a lot of other examples, too: no one wants to listen to Jaime, only control him; strained relationships with his friends due to his new responsibilities; the search for a mentor; and even running away from home. While some of these are more subtle than others, Bedard uses all the ammo he can to show how becoming a superhero isn’t that different from being an awkward teenager.
This month brings the long-awaited (by me, at least) reunion of Booster Gold and Blue Beetle! While the Silver Age Beetle doesn’t seem to be active in the ‘New 52’ (at least not yet), this team-up hearkens back to the days when Michael John Carter and Ted Kord would bumble around town, tripping over each other just trying to do good deeds and be remembered for them. Of course, DC’s relaunch has been about reintroducing characters and relationships in a new way. For Blue Beetle, that means making Booster Gold at-odds with Jaime from the get-go. Booster gets the spotlight for the first few pages, appearing on a talk show where he chides the more conservative guest over bullying Beetle without hearing the boy’s side of the story. And actually, their meeting starts out innocently enough; Jaime introduces himself and goes on about being grateful for Booster’s desired friendship. That’s all before Booster sucker punches him across the bay.
Booster reveals that he knows about the Reach, giving a little more credence to his violent outburst. But like most adults in this series, he basically refuses to listen to Jaime, opting instead to shoot first and ask questions later. Their fighting takes them across the city and into Washington Square Park where the citizens of New York City watch in horror as Booster Gold beats the Blue Beetle down. A pause in the fist-throwing lets Beetle attempt to explain his unorthodox situation to Booster while the people in the park listen in and start to see that a there’s a scared, confused kid trapped in a suit of armor being framed for crimes he didn’t commit or couldn’t control.
Booster Gold knows about the Reach and is convinced Jaime is under it’s control, yet is forced to stand down when the surrounding crowd, and Jaime’s grandmother in particular, starts chastising the adult hero for beating up a kid. Lying through his teeth, Booster covers his tracks by claiming it was all a test to be a member of the JLI and giving Jaime a more open-minded chance to prove himself.