Tuesday, April 1, 2008

The Best Books You Aren't Reading: Blue Beetle

Another one of the best books that you probably aren’t reading is here for you: Blue Beetle. John Rogers has no history in the comics industry, aside from an obvious love of the industry. Together, he worked with comics-legend Keith Giffen to start a new Blue Beetle series honoring the legacy of recently-deceased Ted Kord. The series got off to a rocky start with a perfectly average first arc, but Jaime Reyes, the hispanic teenager they created to fill the Blue Beetle identity, has become a cult favorite, with a small but extremely loyal fanbase and a great deal of critical acclaim.

So…why all the praise? I mean, if a book isn’t selling well, how good can it be? Well, first off, ‘selling well’ is hard to figure out in comics these days. Blue Beetle is selling horribly in single issues…but, Marvel and DC are realizing, slowly, that 15,000-25,000 readers is becoming the average for the industry on books that don’t feature heroes like Batman or Spider-Man, or Events. The industry has changed, become more fearful of new characters, and they’ve started to realize it. They’ve also realized the importance of trades, and Blue Beetle trades sell extremely well on places like Amazon.com. So, it’s selling alright.

Now, here’s a brief rundown of why Blue Beetle is one of the best books that you aren’t reading.

1) The characters. John Rogers has a strange habit – everyone gets their 15 minutes of fame in the series. The perfectly normal supporting cast all have moments of bad-assery that will make you grin and cheer. Besides that, though, they’re all quite realistic, and deal with real issues. Blue Beetle features, in fact, one of the most realistic and dynamic supporting casts in all of current comicdom.
2) The story. Blue Beetle took a little while to start going – the first arc is fairly slow and purely average, and the second arc, while good, doesn’t feel extraordinarily important. However, many seemingly unconnected events tie together nicely by the end of Rogers’ run. It takes awhile for things to come together, but it’s immensely satisfying when it does.
3) The humor. It’s one of the few genuinely funny books on the shelves that’s funny in a way that feels completely natural. Banter is age-appropriate to the characters, and gives a sense of their lives outside of Jaime’s superhero world.
4) Finally, Blue Beetle has some of the best allusions to the rest of the DC Universe out there. Batman finds him to be a responsible kid struggling with something bigger than himself, and you start to see tiny, interesting little things pop up to make superheroing a little easier for him, like insurance covering the destruction of his house…

Blue Beetle isn’t the best book out there by any means. But if you’re looking for a good, fun read, you should check it out. It’s one of the most realistic books I’ve ever read when it comes to simple human relationships, and it’s a joy to read because of it. It’s not grim, it’s not gritty, and there’s not much angst, so if you’re looking for a break from all that normal fare, go pick it up.

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