erf writes: Blue Beetle, in its current incarnation, is a fun comic that’s largely
self-contained — not heavily interwoven with other DC series —
although there are definitely plenty of connections. I haven’t been
collecting comics much, but I’m definitely getting this one. I’ll be
buying them in the trade paperbacks; here’s my review of the first!
Title: Blue Beetle: Shellshocked (TPB 1)
Author: Keith Giffen and John Rogers
Pencils: Cully Hamner, Cynthia Martin, Duncan Rouleau,
Inks: Cully Hamner, Phil Moy, Duncan Rouleau, Jack
Colours: David Selv, Guy Major
Original Publication Date: 2006
Cover Price: USD$12.99, CAD$17.50
Buy from: Amazon.com
After helping the Justice League find and fight the Brother Eye spy
satellite (in space!) during Infinite Crisis, Jaime Reyes
returns to his home in El Paso and tries to adjust to his new found
power, and the unwanted attention that comes with it.
The characters in this book act like people first and “superheroes”
second. The interactions between Jaime and his family and friends are
especially natural sounding (and amusing).
The rooftop testing scene seems out of character — he trashes a bunch
of property just to find out what the armour does. He could just as
easily have gone out to the desert and trashed a bunch of rocks,
without being a vandal.
This seems pretty original for a superhero origin story. The
emphasis is definitely on the people, instead of a series of random
fights, and it’s really taking time for Jaime (and everyone around
him) to adjust to what’s happened. The main villain actually ties
together Jaime, many secondary characters, and El Paso itself. This
seems different from most of the new superhero stuff I’ve read, where
the villains are mainly someone for the hero to fight while he learns
about his new powers. Combined with all the sub-plots, I give it 5/6.
The artwork is very expressive; I love the range of facial
expressions, and the body language to go with it. Action is clear.
Layouts are nothing innovative, but they suit the story well. Inks
and colours seem to go well with the pencils, giving the panels depth
and contrast without obscuring anything. More importantly, the
characters actually look like different ethnicities — white, black,
Hispanic, etc. (And the miscellaneous background people are
interesting, too; there’s even a random guy in a wheelchair with an
aid dog, just because.) I really don’t like the way Paco is drawn by
a couple of the artists, but that’s my only quibble. 5/6.
The story is people-driven, which is the best part of
this book. We learn some surprising things about several of the
characters, but they fit in retrospect, and everything comes together
as the story unfolds. I look forward to seeing where this series is
going, but this book is a complete story in itself. And as I said
above, this initial story really establishes the Blue Beetle in this
setting, with this supporting cast. 5/6.
The characterization is the highlight of this book, as
you’ve gathered by now. Even the secondary characters are distinct
and interesting. 6/6.
The emotional response is good. This is a fun book;
nothing too heavy, lots of laugh-out-loud dialog, but I definitely
felt for the characters, particularly Jaime, and there were some
poignant moments. I give it 4/6.
The flow is good. Each page is easy to follow, scene changes
and flashbacks are smoothly executed, and the various parts of the
story are well interwoven. (It would be easier to read this if I was
familiar with some of the cameo characters like the Phantom Stranger, or the events of
Infinite Crisis, but they didn’t assume any foreknowledge —
which is impressive in a mainstream comic.) 4/6.
Overall, if you’re looking for a fun superhero series with
some real depth to the characters, I highly recommend this. 5/6.
In total, Blue Beetle: Shellshocked receives 34/42.
Additional Notes and Comments
I’m coming at this book without a lot of current (or past) comics
experience. I don’t really have any idea what Infinite
Crisis was about. In fact, I’ve rarely collected “mainstream”
comics of any kind, especially in DC. One of the things that I
especially like in this title is that it feels largely self-contained;
I don’t need to know much about the rest of the DC Universe
to enjoy this one. I’m hoping that continues. (Even Spouse enjoyed
it, and had no problem following the book, and she doesn’t even know