Blue Beetle: Shellshocked, Road Trip and Reach for the Stars

Blue Beetle: Shellshocked, Road Trip and Reach for the Stars
John Rogers, Keith Giffen, Cully Hammer and Rafael Albuquerque, 2006, 2007, 2008

Okay, I get it now. Jaime Reyes is awesome.

Premise: These are the first three collected trades of the recent Blue Beetle series. (Not the brand new one, the one that started in 2006.) Jaime Reyes is a teenager in El Paso, who finds a scarab that seems to be made of stone. It's actually alien technology that bonds to his spine, giving him semi-sentient armor and the superhero identity of the new Blue Beetle. (There were two previous Blue Beetles, neither had the scarab react to them in this way, and both are dead at this point. It's not necessary to know anything about the previous Blue Beetles to enjoy these books.) Immediately after he discovers his new powers, he's drafted by the Justice League on a seriously far away mission. When he returns home, he finds that he lost a year somewhere. His family thought he was dead, his friends are freaking out that he's back, and he doesn't know how to be a superhero, but he thinks he has to try. That's where the story starts.

I understand why so many people raved about this series. It has a fantastic blend of action and humor, of epic battles and personal moments. The core of the series isn't Jaime fighting villains, it's him trying to figure out what the scarab is, and how to be a hero, while not freaking out or worrying his family, while protecting his hometown and his friends.

I love that there is very little secret identity bullshit. No sitcom-style manufactured problems about double lives. Everyone who is important to Jaime knows that he's the Blue Beetle, and they all adjust to it pretty well. The supporting cast is really strong here, and that helps a book like this stand out.

Of course, there's also great villains, awesome cameos from other heroes, and plenty of mystery. The art styles are really strong, flamboyant and expressive. I love it.

Jaime is a great hero, a unique personality with a sense of humor, an strong sense of right and wrong and a realistic perspective on the world from his upbringing. His family is extremely important to him. Both his parents work hard to keep their family above water, so he has, let's just say, a different worldview from some other heroes who are living off their trust funds.

All three collections were really good, but I especially loved Reach for the Stars. That one features awesome guest spots with Guy Gardener (Green Lantern) and Superman, the introduction of Traci 13 (the awesome sorceress girlfriend) and an amazing crossover with Teen Titans.

Shellshocked and Road Trip get 4 Stars, Reach for the Stars gets 5

Awesome series.


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