Monday, June 25, 2007

Got you under my skin

Sometimes things can work in your favour. Even the fact that you have a ton of comics to write about and not enough time do get to it.

Because you need a little perspective from time to time. Let´s face it : if I had done my review of the new Blue Beetle series ten months ago it would not have sounded different than my first impressions of the series. But over the course of the series the book starts to get under your skin - like the scarab did in the comic with the main character.

After issue 3 I was still pissed that they killed of Blue Beetle. And no......I don´t think that after the death of Ted Kord there were tons of Blue Beetle fans crawling out of the woodwork who only liked him because all of a sudden they had killed him off. Yes, DC is arguing that way, that while there may have been " some " fans of Blue Beetle it " never would have been enough " to support his own series. Those are only some random but very vocal fanboys. Well, I think Blue Beetle had more fans than DC knew or ever cared to admit.

And it´s not the first time either. Remember when they had to resurrect Dick Grayson who was supposed to die during INFINITE CRISIS ? But because of the tremendous outcry of fans they had to bring him back. Well, it looks to me that DC is not really aware how popular their characters can be. Not only popular with fans of the legendary Giffen - League ( in my opinion the best league. Ever. )it seems that Blue Beetle was also loved by legion of other comicfans. As to the question of the own series I just want to say : has DC ever really tried to make a Blue Beetle series that sells ? I mean not only put some c - list writer and some unknown artist on it but really go out and recruit some premium deluxe art team. Like Keith Giffen or Grant Morrison or Geoff Johns for the writing and on art Ed McGuiness or Frank Cho or Paul Pelletier. It´s easy to say that a comic would not sell - if you are only prepared to put some half - assed effort into it. It´s a whole new ball game if you have to put your money were your mouth is. Or in this case your creative force.

Yes, I know.....they put some really great artists on Blue Beetle - but only after the death of Ted Kord. That´s another reason I was so angry at DC. We finally get the series we all wanted but with someone else in the driver´s seat. And that´s one of my pet peeves with comics : why do they have to change everything as soon as a hero or character get´s his own book. ? The original idea behind giving someone his own series is that the concept of the character is so strong that you want to capitalize on that. Pretty easy concept. Right ?


Every time a character gets his own series they have to change it. Firestorm gets his own book ? Yes, but it´s someone else than the one everyone loves and who´s so popular. And then DC is surprised that sales are so slow. Supergirl gets her own series ? Okay, but let´s change her powers, change her personality so much her own mother would not recognizer her and turn her into some kind of earth angel ( and let´s not even talk about the new version ). Harley Quinn gets her own book ? Okay, but lets give her a general power boost ( a.k.a. the old more powerful more agile schtick ) and turn her from a lunatic into a hero.

I think you get the idea. Maybe DC should try a new concept once in a while. If a superhero is so popular that he gets his own series - DON´T change him. Just let him be like he is. Maybe they will be surprised.

Anyway, the reason why I´m writing about Blue Beetle at all is that it started out like all those other books that tanked royally. No, really, I was prepared to hate the series. I remember my first impressions about the book. The idea of another super hero who has no idea what he has gotten into didn´t really appeal to me since the whole " reluctant hero " thing is not really a novel concept. I mean I had already experienced both ends of the spectrum you could get. With INVINCIBLE and SPIDER - GIRL I was already reading the best examples, the " How to " on this theme. And of course I had also suffered the low point of the inexperienced youth growin into his role with Kyle Rayner.

So I didn´t really expect comic book greatness even if Keith Giffen was writing the first ten issues. Because that was also a part of the problem. While the series started out strong with the creative team Cully Hamner only did three full issues and Keith Giffen left after issue ten. That´s not a good thing for a series that has only just begun. I think the only reason the series was not immediately canceled was the fact that the fill - in artists ( and later the new artist ) draw in a style that´s similar to Cully Hamner without imitating it.

And the story is really much better than you expect it going in. There are some really surprising twists and shocking developments. And there are some things I now understand better like the kid who was in a coma and thought he was a cop in the year 1973. LIFE ON MARS did not air in Germany when I read that particular issue. And I also wasn´t confused with all the back - and - forth in time thanks to the whole ONE YEAR LATER thing. So while my brother kept the title on his pull list I kept reading it and slowly began to be interested in the book. And than came Guy Gardner.

Yep, that´s right. The issue that REALLY won me over was issue 14 guest starring the best Green Lantern there is, the best there was and the best there ever will be. Guy Gardner. Altough most comic readers think he is the most simple and one dimensional hero nothing could be father from the truth. You really won´t find a more complex, interesting, multi - layered character than old Guy. It´s not easy to write him and most writers have a hard time doing it. So any writer who writes a good Guy ( no pun intended ) is okay in my book. And in issue 14 Mike Rogers has his Gardner down to a tee. This is really one of the best character moments of Guy I have read in a long time.

The best scenes are when Guy acts like a mentor to Jaime Reyes ( the new Blue Beetle ) or just talks about the time when he was leading the Justice League. But my favorite part is on the last page when Guy Gardner is dishing out a piece of advice because it just shows that the writer has neither forgotten Ted Kord nor what made him special.

" Ted Kord had no powers, kid. He was always " overpowered ". But he always won. I saw him mop the floor with guys who ate stars.

Because he was smarter. He was smarter than Bats, although nobody ever noticed.

You can beat those punks. But you gotta stop thinkin´ like some scared kid with fancy power armor......

....and start thinkin´like THE BLUE BEETLE. "

That´s one FUCK YEAH ! moment right there. Did I mention that the issue has the Ultrahumanite ? You just can´t beat an evil genius inside a gorilla´s body. Worked with Brainiape in SAVAGE DRAGON, worked with Monsieur Mallah in DOOM PATROL and it sure works here.

Okay, right now you might be saying : I´m interested, so what is this new Blue Beetle series all about ? Let´s begin with the origin right here.

Up until issue six we are all led to believe that the scarab is nothing more than a magical object of power but at the end of that issue Peacemaker arrives and tells Jaime that it´s origin is extraterrestial. Which of course makes some kind of sense since the scarab can form this armor and work with tech as well as the weird things the armor has been doing and why only Jaime can hear it - since he´s bonded to it. Here the writer sucessfully combines elements of fantasy with science fiction. Only in a super hero book, man. The arriving of Peacemaker sets Jaime on a course to try to find out how the armor and the powers work and why every Blue Beetle so far has had different powers.

With him on this search are Brenda, whose aunt is the local crimelord of EL PASO and Paco who has become a member of the posse. I like the idea of a supervillain who prefers to be a big fish in a small pond than being a small fish in a big pond. And she´s also very concerned about Brenda´s well being. Which gets the new Blue Beetle in all kinds of trouble when she is transported off - world by a mother box she finds in her aunts study at the end of issue nine.

That´s one aspect that also is a big part of the series : family. No matter if it is Jaime´s immediate family and how they cope with his return after suddenly vanishing for a whole year or his second family with Brenda, Paco and his hacker friends. One of the strong points of the book is the realistic relationships between the main protagonists. Although you could get the feeling that it´s all to sugarcoated with Jaime being the almost perfect son and his father who is always so understanding and supportive. But then you find out that Brenda´s father was hitting her and it´s not so peaceful.

Anyway, issue seven we finally find out what happened to Jaime after the end of INFINITE CRISIS and how he lost a whole year. So after that the first stop on their tour is Dan Garret, the granddaughter of the original Blue Beetle, and Keith Giffens and John Rogers clear up the whole deal about who the first two Blue Beetles were and how they were connected. I won´t get too much into details ( yeah, too late for that ) but they wind up meeting the NEW GODS namely Metron.

I just can´t seem to escape the shadow of Jack Kirby. No matter if it´s a comic convention in Sapin or reading some series at home sooner or later he just pops up.

So after that Jamie finally meets the aliens that built the armor and that´s when evrything goes into Hyperdrive. Whatever you think that is going to´re not going to guess what really happens. One last thing I want to mention is that issue 15 featuring Superman has two different covers. I would say the isssue where Blue Beetle meets Superman but they are only together in like two pages. So here are the two different covers.

I wonder why they changed it. I mean on the cover that was released Superman is frowning while in the actual issue he´s all smiling and chill out, dude. Nevertheless Blue Beetle is a series you should definitely check out if you are not already reading it. Maybe you will grow to like it - like me.

Normally this is the part where I post some links where you can see preview pages of Blue Beetle. But since DC has stopped participating with MileHighComics and the preview on pocultureshock disappear faster than a Big Mac on a convention of Marlon Brando imitators I´m going to post the pictures directly. So here are some links to some reviews of Blue Beetle and if you want to see some art you can scroll down.

If you don´t want any spoilers just skip this part and go directly to the end of the posting with the clip.

issues 1 to 4 / issue 4 / issue 8 / issue 9 / issue 11 / issue 15

And that´s all for today. Next time we will hopefully get back to the comic convention in Spain. I hope.......

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