Friday, May 05, 2006

"Blue Monday" (DC Comics)
Blue Beetle #1 When: May 2006
Why: Keith Giffen & John Rogers How: Cully Hamner

The story so far...
During the countdown, Ted Kord unconvered a plot against the heroes led by his former Justice League colleage - Maxwell Lord.

Lord murdered the Blue Beetle, but the scarab once owned by original Blue Beetle, Dan Garrett, was already on a journey of mystic intervention which would eventually lead it to El Paso, Texas.

A Blue Beetle's death initiated the OMAC Project, but it would be the new Blue Beetle who would be instrumental in destroying the Brother I satellite that was plaguing the world and it's heroes. Along with Batman, Green Lantern and many others, this new Blue Beetle began his career by saving the world.

Tale of the tape...
Strength: Guy Gardner 3 (Athlete)
Intelligence: Blue Beetle 3 (Straight A)
Speed: Guy Gardner 3 (Athlete)
Stamina: Guy Gardner 5 (Marathon Runner)
Agility: Guy Gardner 2 (Average)
Fighting Ability: Guy Gardner 4 (Trained Fighter)
Energy Powers: Guy Gardner 7 (Solar Power)

At surface level you'd have to think ol' bowl cut himself, Guy Gardner, has the new Blue Beetle licked. Of course, that's where you'd be wrong.

Experience plays a major part in Gardner's dominance in the ratings, and with one of the most powerful weapons on his finger, even the Blue Beetle's magical scarb armor is dwarfed by the ring of a Green Lantern. Even if a lunkhead like Guy Gardner is wearing it.

The psuedo-scientific qualities of the magical Blue Beetle armor are quite new. With very little history behind him, it's difficult to be certain whether the new Blue Beetle's abilities have been accurately assessed. It's entirely possible that the capabilities of the suit have been greatly underestimated.

What we do know is that the suit is able to detect things unseen by the human eye. Beyond that, I would honestly have to say all assessments were made based on the information available in the new Blue Beetle on-going series we're featuring. Thusly, the speculative properties of the tape are compromised, but being as unaffected as possible, I render a verdict.

Experience alone on the part of Guy Gardner makes him a far more formidable opponent than he is often given credit. Despite being known for going down to 'one punch,' he's a rought and tough kind of guy, and isn't likely to go down to a kid in the latest Power Ranger togs.

The new Blue Beetle undoubtedly has a strong future, but for now, you'd be crazy not to tip the Green Lantern, Guy Gardner.

What went down...
A fireball descends from the heavens, and from the crater it leaves we are introduced to the new Blue Beetle for the first time officially in a solo capacity.

Having played a crucial role in defeating Brother I and the OMAC units, you'd think young Jaime Reyes would be pretty content to curl up into a ball and cry himself to sleep. And, if Guy Gardner hadn't shown up, he probably would have.

"Oh God... that's the crazy one. The crazy Green Lantern -- he's gonna kill me..."
For those keeping score at home, there have been at least two "crazy" Green Lanterns. One of them was absolved by a convenient Geoff Johns plot involving an evil yellow monster. The other got punched out by Batman.

The crazy Green Lantern, who has had his redeeming moments, probably could've argued he wasn't a threat to the boy. That is, of course, if he wasn't crazed and screaming that he wanted to kill him.

Like any trusty mystic armor, the blue Scarab goes into auto-pilot, protecting the young boy from the Green Lantern's offensive with large shields and by letting off a blinding flash.
A flash that gives young Jaime Reyes enough time to explain that he doesn't even know how to control the armor, and is just frightened and wanting to go home.

Perhaps it was the persistent glint of insanity in Guy's eye, or, perhaps it was the buzzing and sparking of the scarab armor, that inflamed the situation. We may never truly know, but, regardless, Blue Beetle learned another of his powers, shooting out a whopping lightning bolt of energy from his funnel fanning wrist gauntlet thingy... which knocked the seasoned GL on his arse.

Of course, what good would a mystic suit of pseudo-tech armor be without means of airborne propulsion?
Retractable beetle shields become back-mounted wings, as the reluctant Blue Beetle is torn away from battle, still pleading for his life.

Guy Gardner, ever the relentless hero with an iron will the GL Corp is famous for, continues the assault. With the energies of the ring, he fashions a giant jackhammer, and sets about trying to dismantle his pubescent foe.

Driven into the ground, the child makes one last plea as the funky Blue Beetle mask melts away to reveal his terrified little face. A face peppered with the tears of a little nancy boy, afraid of a scary-wary, greeny-meanie, lethally insane Green Lantern who is controlling a giant, green jackhammer.

In a moment of clarity ("A kid?"), Guy Gardner does what any self-respecting, college-cut redhead would do. He blames it on an inanimate object.
Glaring at his ring he cries, "It's just a kid! I... DON'T... HURT... KIDS!"

Who are you trying to convince, Guy? The ring, or yourself?

Now apparently recognising the black and blue motiff of the Blue Beetle (or is that a physically abused Latin minor, with a legitimate case against a Justice Leaguer?), Guy Gardner welcomes BB to the fold, and disappears into the night sky.

As for Jaime Reyes?
With the excitement dying down, the god damn scarab sees fit to disappear into his spine, and make him walk home from the desert, naked.

The hammer...
If I were to go on points, I'd probably have to say Guy Gardner came out with the win here, but because of the peaceful conclusion I'm gonna call this one a draw.

The real winner here is probably anyone who dared to check this issue out. Although running quite behind on updates, this was an immediate inclusion to the list when I read it. In fact, the first three Friday updates all carry that tag as new, unique and enjoyable reads.

Keith Giffen [and John Rogers, apparently] does something very interesting with this story. In it's essence, it's a very tired and cliched set-up: a new character fights an older character, and we learn a little more about the [boy] behind the mask.

Creatively this scenario could have very easily doomed the title to being in the twenty thousands [sales figures], and universally regarded as creative slag.
Instead, the team at work here spins out of Infinite Crisis with an opportunity to do a very strong, stand-alone issue, that uses those professional wrestling style conventions of 'putting a character over,' while still telling a very enjoyable, and inviting story.

Pacing is very successful here, defying the Brian Bendis style of introduction, in favour of cramming in backstory at constructed intervals during the fight.
Flowing, natural beats during the fight do well to allow a break from the traditional superhero slobber knocker, and justify the battle, which is really quite inconsequential.

All the fight really serves to do is elaborate on the abilities of the new Blue Beetle, while also insinuating there may be another side to the magic involved, which is the reason Guy Gardner enters the fray quite crazed.
The blue scarab antagonises the Green Lantern ring, delivering a mental rabbit punch to the already unstable, Guy Gardner.

Of course, there is one other thing the fight does provide. That, quite simply, is an enjoyable, and visually delightful story.
What makes this book such a creative success, in my eyes, is it's ability to cover all bases. The story itself is quite simple, and with another artist involved it may have fallen quite flat.

Cully Hamner's energetic, minimalist toony approach, coupled with a cool palette of David Self colours, serves up a visually appropriate masterpiece. The pencils dance a fine line of animation friendly simplicity, with a convincing seriousness, that does well to sell every moment of the story.

Yes, this title has done the unthinkable.
In the shadow of an abrupt send-off to Ted Kord, we find ourselves with a thoroughly acceptable replacement. This title is so enjoyable, it has to be sickening to any die-hard JLI fan.

That said, Giffen assures fans that there is no anymosity, or personal motivation for the recent string of JLI era slayings.
Maxwell Lord, Sue Dibny and Ted Kord were just asking for it purely on their own merits. Frankly, this reader thinks Wonder Woman snapping Lords smug neck was ten years overdue.

Buy Blue Beetle.
You'll feel better for it.

The Fight: 5 The Issue: 6.5

NEXT: A pleasant, pantheon of primary colours as the two super-heavyweights, Superman and Hulk, duke it out in Marvel vs DC action.

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