ART: Ig Guara and JP Mayer
Blue Beetle #12 is the culmination of a year's worth of stories. Sure, this might sound familiar to the likes of Batman and Action Comics, but for a smaller title such as Tony Bedard's about a teenager who suddenly inherits seemingly unending power, taking the longer, better developed path can be a risky endeavor. Fortunately for Jaime Reyes and his scarab, this gamble has paid off and Blue Beetle is one of the most solid, well rounded titles that DC offers every month. While the first few months felt a bit rushed and convoluted, it soon became clear that Bedard was emulating the adolescent experience - that of misunderstanding, universal awkwardness, and coping with change. Unlike Teen Titans or Superboy - both of which have spent their entire runs steeped in heavy superhero mythos - Tony Bedard has only lightly touched on grander plot points with Blue Beetle, opting instead to develop Jaime as a person, as opposed to simply another hero like, say, Bart Allen thus far,
And really, the use of universal teenage emotions is only one of of the ways Bedard keeps Blue Beetle grounded, while also making sure that the armor gets a good workout each issue. I'm not a religious person, but I appreciate religious symbolism and it's inclusion in art when it's done with integrity and without bias. Simply put, Tony Bedard understands the that a lesson from religion doesn't translate into dogmatic belief. The issue's opening scene involves the scarab scanning Jaime's grandmother's apartment and focusing on the crucifixion hanging on the wall, and it's confusion over an idea like self-sacrifice for the good of others. It's a short scene, but one that resonates throughout the issue, then more specifically when Jaime goes up against the 'Blood Beetle'.
Probably the weakest part of the issue is the actual 'moral of the story'. In the middle of the final fight, Jaime wishes he could find a way to remove the armor's medical implant without killing Paco in the process. Contrary to it's explanation during the Beetles' first bout some issues back, the scarab is able to remove the 'med-tick' only by cloning part of Jaime's heart to replace the implant. It's a risky procedure, apparently, but it pays off; Paco is safe, the med-tick is safely back within the scarab armor, and Jaime is reunited with his friends. Jaime asks the scarab why it didn't just save Paco in this fashion the first time around, to which the scarab replies, "Because victory through self-sacrifice was an alien concept. Until today." It's because Bedard is so good at subtly conveying ideas and emotions that it's jarring when he changes pace and writes more frankly.
The ability to make a generally lesser-known character more popular is an under-appreciated skill these days. Characters like Wolverine, Batman, and Superman have a built-in fan base. Now, that's not to say that writing these characters doesn't present their own challenges, but starting from scratch can be a daunting task for any writer. Tony Bedard aptly handles the teenaged Blue Beetle, offering up a narrative flow that keeps the series grounded enough to be relatable, but includes enough weirdness to keep it interesting. If you haven't read Blue Beetle, you should.