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Top 5 Great Things About The Blue Beetle

(In which I go all comic book nerd and don't shut up about one of my new favourite superheroes.)

So, last week I finished the 36 issues that made up the most recent series of Blue Beetle, starring the third incarnation of the character, Jaime Reyes. I was so taken by the series that Jaime immediately slipped into my #2 spot of Favourite Superheroes (sorry, Deadpool - but then, there's a good argument that you shouldn't be in a "heroes" list at all.) Since I wanted to share my love of the character (and because it's been a week since I last posted anything) I decided to list the Top 5 reasons why I love Blue Beetle.

5. "I am... a DENTIST!"

The above quote requires a little context. In Issue #16 Blue Beetle and his friends (including future girlfriend Traci 13) are searching for Eclipso, who has kidnapped the baby of two metahumans. Eclipso's plan is to enter the baby, a human vessel that is not yet sullied by human desires or emotional baggage. The baby is inside a magic circle, so Jaime's friend Paco steps inside to retrieve her. But he cannot leave until he fights Eclipso's chosen champion, and of course the smug git chooses Jaime. Eclipso releases Jaime's deepest, darkest fantasies of power, at which point he becomes... well, a dentist.

Why? Because dentists make six figures a year, which means he could take care of his parents and see that his little sister gets to go to college. It's just one of the many witty, hilarious, unexpected moments one finds in Blue Beetle. Every page is chock full of clever dialogue and brilliant quotes that you'll want to share with friends until they shout at you to shut the hell up about Blue Beetle already. In a world where every comic is dark, gritty and ultraviolent, Blue Beetle was a breath of fresh air.

4. The Reach - a different kind of evil alien.

At one point or another, every superhero faces an overwhelming alien threat seeking to destroy or control the world. Often these aliens show up with an armada of spaceships full of mindless grunts armed to the teeth. But the Reach, the alien enemies who were involved in the series' longest story arc, were far smarter than that. First of all, they had the gall to open up diplomatic talks with the world's leaders. And then they pretty much acted like ET's nicer cousins.

But the truth, of course, is that they were engaging in a long-term plan of domination that would play out over a century. First they would infect the world's food and water supplies to make the inhabitants of Earth more docile, then trigger a global catastrophe and offer to help the survivors, but only if they pledged allegiance to the Reach. It had worked pretty well, until they got to Earth, but we'll come back to that. The important thing to note here is that the Reach were far more cerebral than one expects from planet-devouring alien overlords, and it was a nice change.

3. Appear in Blue Beetle and be prepared to reveal a side of yourself rarely seen.

There's something about Blue Beetle that makes almost anyone who appeared in the pages of the last series seem lighter, in a way (with the possible exception of Batman, but then... you know.) Indeed, there were a lot of guest stars in Blue Beetle, from the Teen Titans (of which Jaime is now a member) to Guy Gardner to Superman himself. Indeed, it's Superman (so often just a big boy scout in my eyes) who is the most striking - he actually comes off as the wise older figure he really should be, considering his importance as the first comic book superhero.

Also interesting to note is Christopher Smith, or Peacemaker. A gruff, no-nonsense, terribly troubled individual, his association with Jaime seems to allow him some kind of redemption after years of violence, a man who "loved peace so much he'd kill for it."

And hell, even Batman is funny - though his sense of humour, naturally, is quite dry.

2. "I'm Paco. And I am going to hit you with this stick until you get the #&%$ off my planet."

Possibly the greatest line in any of the 36 issues that made up Blue Beetle v3. It also gets across an important message - for all the Reach's technological and intellectual innovations, nothing they have is stronger than the human spirit.

I also love the line because it encapsulates Paco's personality so perfectly. He, like every other character in Blue Beetle, was well-rounded and went through real changes as the series progressed. Both Paco and Brenda, Jaime's two best friends, were the type of people you would want at your side while taking on the world. And no one can forget Jaime's parents, the most awesome mother and father in the DC Universe, if not all comics. The reason Blue Beetle could never be dark and overly serious is because there were so many people in Jaime's life who loved him and had faith in him. He never hid his secret, and guess what? They weren't in any more or less danger because of it (suck on that, Spiderman.) The reason is most likely because they all acted like real people, and not as weak victims who always had to be saved by Jaime. Indeed, more often than not, it's because of his friends and family that Blue Beetle is able to save the day.

1. The meaning behind "Khaji-Da."

The first Blue Beetle, Dan Garret, was an architect who found a stone scarab on a dig in Egypt (there was an earlier incarnation where Dan was a cop who gained superpowers from a special drug, but the accepted character history usually begins from this reboot.) He found that by yelling out the words "Khaji-Da!" he could tap into the mystical power of the scarab, tranforming himself into the Blue Beetle.

When Garret died he passed on the mantle to Ted Kord, a gifted inventor. Ted couldn't access the scarab's powers and so used his advanced intellect to create a number of gadgets that allowed him to carry on Dan's work. Ted was later killed by Maxwell Lord just prior to the events of Infinite Crisis and the scarab was lost.

This is where Jaime Reyes comes in. Walking home from school in his home town of El Paso, he stumbled across the scarab and took it home, whereupon it fused itself to his spine while he slept. It wasn't until the arrival of the Reach that we learned the truth behind the stone scarab; far from being an ancient mystical relic, it was actually a piece of Reach technology. Every planet the Reach planned to control had one of these scarabs, and the user was meant to act as their herald (sort of like the Silver Surfer, but with laser cannons.) Only the scarab on Earth had some kind of defect that allowed it to develop free will, so when the Reach arrived they discovered, to their horror, that their agent on Earth was ready to defend it against them.

And so it was, in the climactic "End Game" storyline, that all the pieces of the puzzle fit together and we learned the meaning behind "Khaji-Da": it's the scarab's serial number. But having declared itself an individual being and not simply a tool for conquest, it took the title on as its name.

While I know it might seem like much, I think this was the most important moment in the entire series, because it tied Jaime Reyes' story together with that of the men who came before him. Ted Kord was already an important part of Jaime's life, as he often used Kord's books on strategy to develop his own plans. But it's the discovery behind the true meaning of "Khaji-Da" that really brought him together with Dan Garret. More than that, it began an exciting new chapter in the tale, one in which the scarab was no longer just a source of power but a being with its own thoughts, ideas and quirky sense of humour.

My next step now will be going back and looking for the Ted Kord and Dan Garret Blue Beetle comics. It seems like the character has never really been able to catch a break in his own comic series, forced to stand in the background of more popular characters. But I really hope Jaime and the rest of the gang in El Paso get another chance to entertain and move readers as only the big blue bug can do.


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 14th, 2009 03:27 pm (UTC)
Maybe you could play Blue Beetle in the new thing duffnstuff is doing!
Nov. 14th, 2009 11:21 pm (UTC)
That would be fun, though I'd have to make a decision between him or Deadpool, wouldn't I? :-D
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )