Rhapsody in Blue


A very red cover for a very blue hero

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, I present for you: “Blue Beetle” #16, the Best Comic Book I read last week.

“Blue Beetle” is about Jaime Reyes, a teenager in El Paso, who stumbles upon an alien artifact that fuses to his spine and gives him the ability to conjure up a turbopowered suit of hypertechnological weaponry. Jaime is a pretty reluctant superhero, as the alien armor scares him (it has a mind of its own) and he worries that his family or friends could suffer as a result of his actions. The series has been a bit up-and-down, but it does star one of the most appealing protagonists in all of comics. The supporting cast is also absolutely stellar — the characterizations are rich, fun, detailed and consistent, from his family, to his best friends, Paco and Brenda, to the Posse, a street gang of low-level magic-powered metahumans, to Brenda’s aunt, La Dama, a local crimelord.

“Blue Beetle” is also interesting because it’s the only comic from a major publisher that’s set in the Southwest, and the only one with an almost all-Hispanic cast. Your average American comic book is populated almost entirely by white people, maybe one or two black people, and zero Hispanics — a bit funky for a nation with such a large Hispanic population.

Anyway, this issue is written by John Rogers (one of the writers of the new “Transformers” movie and the proprietor of the Kung Fu Monkey weblog), with art by Rafael Albuquerque. The title alone (“Total Eclipso: The Heart”) gets a thumbs-up from me. Plot: Eclipso, a demon inhabiting the body of Jean Loring, the Atom’s ex-wife, decides that she wants a new host, and she settles on the child of two of the magically empowered gangsters in the Posse. Luckily, Traci 13, the daughter of Dr. Thirteen, Ghost-Breaker, shows up to help with her trademark whacko spellcasting. She gets run off, but enlists Jaime and Paco to help. Much fighting occurs, including the following bit of fun chatter.


Evil stink? That’s why I use Beano!

Paco eventually ends up grabbing the baby but finds that this act has caused him to be designated the baby’s champion, forced to fight Blue Beetle, mystically enslaved and turned into the form of his deepest power fantasies. Is there any way for Paco to survive? Can the baby be rescued? Will Jaime and Traci smooch? I cannot reveal these awesome secrets — you’ll have to go buy the comic yourself to find out.

This is an excellent, wonderful comic book. The dialogue is great, the plot twists are great, there are so many moments of pure fun here. There’s Traci name-dropping the late Ralph and Sue Dibny. There’s Paco begging Jaime to wish for a Porsche. There’s the total awesomeness of Jaime’s entirely unexpected power fantasy.

I ended up getting a lot of wonderful, fun comics this past week, but this one was the very best I got. Verdict: Thumbs-up times a billion. Go get it.

(And yes, I’m way behind on my comics reviewing — having houseguests makes it tough to find time for writing. I’ll try to finish up my reviews a bit later this week, promise.)

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