erf writes: The second Blue Beetle trade is great superhero fun with excellent characterization. If you enjoy superhero comics but aren’t reading this title, you should be.
Title: Blue Beetle: Road Trip (TPB 2)
Author: John Rogers and Keith Giffen
Illustrator(s): Cully Hamner, Rafael Albuquerque, Duncan Rouleau, Casey Jones, with Guy Major on colours.
Original Publication Date: 2007
Cover Price: USD$12.99, CAD$15.99
Buy from: Amazon.com
There are two main themes in this collection. First we have Jaime Reyes digging into the history of the Blue Beetle in an attempt to learn about what he’s become. Interlaced with this is Jamie’s development as a superhero.
The first story, “Brother’s Keeper” (#7). It’s a good story that shows us a little about each of our main characters and their relationships, as well as introducing us to a few members of the Justice League — but even though the story features the likes of Batman, it’s definitely Jaime’s story. And it has an excellent mix of tension, emotion, and comedy.
Duncan Rouleau’s art on “Inside Man” (#8). It’s not horrible, but it’s not as good, and none of the characters look anything like they do in the other issues. His art loses a lot of the distinctiveness and expressiveness the others show, and his inks are too heavy; I think it bothered me more here than in Shell Shocked because the rest is so consistent and good.
This is fairly original overall, particularly the way Jaime aquires the new sidekicks. It loses points for the Standard Superhero Meeting (there’s a misunderstanding, they fight, then they’re friends and allies) and a few other tropes. 4/6.
The artwork by Cully Hamner is excellent, and Raphael Albequerque and Casey Jones are right behind. Each character is distinctive, readily identifiable (without relying on some unique feature like hair or clothes!), and expressive — and human looking! No wasp waists or spherical breasts anywhere. They even make Black Canary’s fishnets look practical! Ethnicities are distinguished well, too, in both art and colour, without resorting to cliche traits. I discussed Duncan Rouleau’s art in the Low Point, though. Net 4/6.
The story is mixed. Some parts of this collection provide pieces of backstory, without much of a real plot, but they do develop the characters and the overall series arc. And the stories told here are a lot of fun, especially the “Left Turn at Albequerque”/”Guns of Forever” two-parter (#10/#11). (Jaime sums it up: “Huge fancy-talking guys with swords on top of super-horses fighting evil! … Outer space is very cool!”) Since a couple of issues feel more like exposition than story, though, I’ll have to go with an above-average 4/6.
As before, this book really shines in its characterization. Each character has a strong personality and is well defined. I particularly appreciate that the women are really independent characters, not just there to drive Jaime’s story. (Look at Brenda’s reaction to her predicament. She’s not just there to be rescued.) 6/6.
The emotional response is a little higher than before. Part of this may be that we know the characters better and can feel for them more. Lots of excitement, lots of funny, several touching moments, and a bucket of fun. 5/6.
The flow is good. Everything’s easy to follow, including the action scenes, and transitions between scenes and locations is smooth and clear. Pacing is well done; even when an entire issue amounts to exposition it’s still interesting. 5/6.
Overall, it keeps getting better. I’m having a blast with this series. 5/6.
In total, Blue Beetle: Road Trip receives 33/42.
Additional Notes and Comments
This book is still managing to avoid requiring knowledge of other DC titles, even for “Brother’s Keeper”, which deals again with events from Infinite Crisis. There are points where I’m sure I’d get more out of a line or a page if I knew more context, but it certainly doesn’t detract from my enjoyment of the series; it’s pretty self-contained.