It’s no secret that I love the Jaime Reyes version of Blue Beetle that first appeared in DC Comics’ Infinite Crisis. I’d never been a fan of Ted Kord and I didn’t really know him as a character. So when he died, I didn’t care. What came next, to me was one of the coolest character designs I’d seen in recent years. I think it all goes back to my love of the Az-bats armor. The blue hue, the idea that anyone could put on the armor and have the abilities of Batman, shoot Batman shaped shurikans from their wrists, and have a flamethrower? C’mon! At 8 or 9 years old, that was the epitomy of cool. Years later I dreamed about a high school kid who could have that kind of armor and save the world, or simply, his friends and school. Then when Infinite Crisis #5 hit I was thrilled. The character design, the black and blue colors, the idea that this was a kid with an armor that acted like Venom’s symbiote, it was cool! So when Jaime got his own solo series with One Year Later I picked it up off the rack and was drawn in. It didn’t hurt that Cully Hammner was doing the art duties either.
In 36 issues, Jaime became a great new character for DC Comics. One could argue that they did not have a character like this in years. I loved a number of things about that first series. Being set in El Paso, Texas allowed the series to showcase a different side of the United States. We had left the big city vibe of every other DC comic to more of a small town feel. We got to know Jaime’s family and two best friends, Paco and Brenda. Jaime’s supporting cast spoke a mix of Spanish and English, so readers were learning parts of a new language and culture. The 26th issue of the series was even printed only in Spanish! Groundbreaking for a DC Comics superhero title (even if they did include and English script in the back). DC seemed to be taking new risks with this young vibrant character. After 36 issues Jaime had been to the moon, beaten a magic wielding gangster, fought in the Sinestro Corps War, teamed up with the JLI, and learned that what the scarab that powered him was. The series even launched the career of Raphael Albuquerque who handled the art duties for more than a year and a half. Now he’s kicking ass with Scott Snyder in the Batman Court of Owls back-ups, but also American Vampire.
Shortly after his first series ended, Blue Beetle appeared in Mark Waid’s The Brave and the Bold comic series as well as the premiere episode of Batman: the Brave and the Bold. Suddenly Blue Beetle had young eyeballs on him by kids everywhere. DC decided to continue Jaime’s story in the Booster Gold back-ups that eventually merged with the main story. He was also featured in the Teen Titans book after issue #50 and used well. Around the same time we heard rumors of a Blue Beetle live action test. It debuted at San Diego Comic-Con in 2010. It’s a pure CGI Blue Beetle, but it is very true to the comic book in terms of size. Later than year, another live action incarnation appeared on Smallville’s final season. You can see it below, but Smallville’s low budget did not allow for the pure CGI character and instead built a very bulky bugsuit. It didn’t look great but it did get across the idea of Jaime and the scarab battling one another for control that sometimes happened in the comic. All of this excited me. I felt like this was the new character DC was most proud of in years. Think about it. Jaime debuted in DC’s event mini-series of the time, then immediately gets his own solo title, lasting 3 years, only to then debut in the new Batman animated show as Batman’s first team-up as well as in Smallville! That is a huge deal! DC obviously had a lot invested in the character and his success only to let it fall by the wayside with the New 52.
Don’t get me wrong. I loved that Blue Beetle was a launch title. I bought every issue. It started off with great art by Ig Guara and story by Tony Bedard. Unfortunately Ig would be rotated on and off the title, never getting a consistent art style. Tony Bedard retold the origin but in a much quicker manner. Jaime’s first battle was still with La Dama, but handled much differently. Bedard in the first arc forced Jaime out of El Paso and into the unknown. I think this was a smart move, no one who had read the previous series wanted a re-hash, and Bedard certainly wanted to write his own story. Jaime set off for New York only to encounter Kyle Rayner and his New Guardians, then setting off into space to encounter the Reach, the scarab’s makers. Unfortunately Blue Beetle was canceled with issue 16. I don’t blame DC for canceling Blue Beetle. It was a business decision plain and simple. I get that. John Mayo’s Comic Book Page has Blue Beetle Vol. 1 #1 with an estimated sales of 77,581 and ended with an estimated sales of 10,620 at issue 36. Blue Beetle Vol. 2 #1 started with and estimated sales of 40,003 and sharply dropped off to 13,662 by issue eight. For DC to give it another 8 issues beyond that point, when it was already so close to cancellation is very generous. They clearly want the character to succeed, but I think they are going about it in the wrong way. Blue Beetle #16 found Jaime sending a recorded message to his family and friends saying he is okay, but doesn’t know when he will return home to Earth. In this same issue, the antagonist Sky Witness, a previous mayan scarab holder on Earth was obliterated with no ceremony at all. The current plan is for Jaime to be featured in DC’s Threshold series. Basically, The Hunger Games in space, with new characters we have no attachment to other than Jaime, and he’s not the star of the book. I looked at the Green Lantern: New Guardians Annual that set it up, as well as issue one and I’m not going to continue. I feel like Jaime would be better served returning to earth. If the character is not selling, give him a break until people ask for him or you can think of a great idea for him. Threshold is not it.
What’s most disappointing in DC’s discarding of Jaime to the nether-regions of their space titles is that Blue Beetle is being prominently featured on the second season of the Young Justice cartoon entitled Young Justice: Invasion. In the first half of the season Jaime was a part of the new recruits and featured a few times. With the most recent episodes we learned that the Reach are the big bad of the season. We’ve seen Jaime go up against other scarabs like Black Beetle, and most recently met a scarab that attached itself to a martian, making it – Green Beetle? All of this culminated in a revelation from Impulse that in the future he came from, Blue Beetle is the strongest of all the scarabs and fell into the Reach’s control, and helped them conquer the earth. Impulse was sent back to stop Jaime from going bad, so Blue Beetle is now the focal point of the entire season! Despite this he no longer has an ongoing series for viewers to check out. It seems history is repeating itself here as it did when Jaime appeared on Batman: The Brave and the Bold. This is the final stretch of episodes for Young Justice, there will not be a third season. It is a great show, but it seems that since it thrives in pre-New 52 continuity that DC does not want it around. Someone somewhere in DC’s architecture is heralding Blue Beetle, but it seems that they’ve forgotten to time the publishing and animation together, twice.