Digesting the New 52: The B-List

23 10 2011

Blue Beetle #1

One of the more pleasing aspects of the DC reboot is that several new characters are getting a shot at the big time. As I’ve previously mentioned, I’m often much more interested in the B-list characters than I am in the “big guns,” so it’s nice to see heroes like Captain Atom, Mr. Terrific, and Blue Beetle get a chance to carry a regular monthly series. As I expected, the results were mixed.

Let’s start with Blue Beetle.  The current Beetle is Jaime Reyes, a teenager from El Paso, TX who finds himself in possession of a scarab that has fallen from outer space. The scarab bonds itself to Jaime and imbues him with the power to transform himself into the Blue Beetle. The series intends to focus on the relationship between Jaime and the scarab; Jaime using the scarab to become a hero, and the scarab – a weapon – learning to be something more than an instrument of destruction.

I became a Blue Beetle fan thanks to the previous incarnation, Ted Kord, through Justice League International in the ‘80s and early ‘90s. The previous series starring Jaime painted him as a legacy character, incorporating the histories of both Kord and original Beetle Dan Garrett. My concern is that the current series will go with a completely clean slate, and both Ted and Dan will be forgotten. It’s a bit too early to tell, though.

Another criticism I’ve seen of the first issue is the use of “Spanglish.” Jaime is a Mexican-American who comes from a Spanish-speaking family. Some readers saw the Spanish-language dialogue to be heavy-handed and forced, some pegging it as a misguided attempt at “diversity.” I’m not as cynical as that. Sure, it wouldn’t hurt to have some subtitles. But writer Tony Bedard is Puerto Rican, and I have a feeling that Puerto Rican “Spanglish” might be a bit different from the Mexican American variety that people in California and the southwest are used to. Regardless, I still like Jaime as a character, and I’m sticking around for another few issues at least.

Mr Terrific #1

Mr. Terrific is another favorite character of mine. The world’s third-smartest man, he’s previously been involved with the Justice Society of America, even serving as chairman. Unfortunately, as much as I like and see potential in the character, both the story and artwork on Mr. Terrific just weren’t doing it for me. I can’t say that there was anything particularly wrong or bad about this book, but it just fell flat for me.

Captain Atomwas a series I collected back in the ‘80s. Originally, he was an Air Force captain wrongly accused of murdering his wife. Rather than sitting in a prison cell, he volunteered to participate in an experiment that launched him 20 years into the future and gave him diamond-hard skin and the power to manipulate nuclear energy. As for his post-reboot status quo, I couldn’t really tell you. He appears to have similar but enhanced powers, and is hanging

Captain Atom #1

out with a bunch of scientists. The story was a bit of a muddled mess, and the art was kind of messy. I have a feeling that I kind of know what artist Freddie Williams was trying to do, but he definitely didn’t accomplish it.

While we’re on the subject of muddled messes, we should also take a look at Static Shock. I picked up this issue primarily because of Scott McDaniel’s artwork, and also because I’ve always felt that the character deserved a higher profile in the comics world, especially after having anchored a fairly successful cartoon series that ran for four seasons.

Static Shock #1

Static is a teenage super hero with electrical powers who has recently relocated to a new city. A fairly cliché super hero encounter ensues, and we don’t really learn a whole lot about Static himself or how his powers work. The artwork isn’t terrible, but it is a little flat… nowhere near as clean and well defined as what I’m used to from McDaniels’ runs on Batman and Nightwing. The whole package just seemed really rushed and I hoped for more.

Finally, Nightwing stars Dick Grayson, the original Robin who recently filled in for Bruce Wayne as Batman for a time. Nightwing has come through his recent adventures with newfound confidence, knowing that he’s capable of filling the shoes of his mentor, but fully comfortable in the fact that he is his own person.

Nightwing #1

Nightwing finds out that the circus is coming to town; in this case, it’s the circus where he used to swing from the trapeze along with his parents before they were murdered. And, of course, there’s a mystery afoot… One with apparent ties to the activities going on in Batman.

With a solid, interesting story and great art, the only negative is the apparent crossover with Batman. I don’t mind the occasional crossover here and there, but starting off a new series with one before a new status quo can be established for our hero is a bad sign. I’ll be sticking around for another issue or two, but if following Nightwing is dependent upon reading Batman, I won’t be reading either for long.

Next time: The Dark Side of the DCU

– dEV

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One response

23 10 2011
Eric

YES! Stick with Blue Beetle; he needs all the readers he can get so his book will go on. I don’t want to see it cancelled!

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