Blue Beetle: Road Trip
Blue Beetle: Road Trip is the second book in the series about the young superhero, and it’s where the stories really start clicking. Jaime Reyes has an alien scarab bonded to him, and it gives him the power to fly, to create armor, to fire blasts… and to get in over his head fighting intergalactic threats.
Jaime’s got a background different from most teen superheroes: he lives in El Paso, and he’s Hispanic. The art (especially the colors by Guy Major) does a good job of capturing the flavor of the Southwest. The book’s stories are drawn by Cully Hamner, Duncan Rouleau, and Rafael Albuquerque with emphasis on open skies and wide vistas.
Jaime’s relationships are also unusual. For one thing, he doesn’t hide his abilities or responsibilities from his parents. Instead, he relies on their guidance and example. It’s refreshing to see a tight-knit, caring family that doesn’t lie to each other as part of the basic premise.
For another, his friends are great. There’s the strong, loyal Paco, and Brenda, a redhead whose attitude covers up for her hurt over losing her parents and living with her aunt, who turns out to be a crimelord. For superhero guidance, there’s a new Peacemaker, a tattooed former military type who has an unsuspected connection to Jaime’s scarab.
The book opens with Jaime recapping his recent adventures in space with many other superheroes, including Batman, Black Canary, and Green Arrow. This leads to writer John Rogers’ best bit of dialogue in the series:
Green Arrow (to Black Canary): “Blow it up” is your big tip for the rookie?
Black Canary: This from the guy who fights everything from robots to aliens by shooting them with tiny sticks.
Green Arrow: Very fast sticks. Fast and pointy!
Black Canary (to Blue Beetle): Don’t mind him. He’s just upset this fight won’t give him a chance to make a speech about poverty.
After the catch-up, which conveniently serves as a great starting point for the reader as well, Jaime, Brenda, and Peacemaker set off on a road trip to research the beetle with help from Danielle Garrett, granddaughter of the original Blue Beetle. There’s also the story of how the Peacemaker came to be and a trip to another planet with a barbarian fighter and a civilization of killer squirrel-like things.
Blue Beetle is a kid who didn’t ask to be given superpowers, but he’s trying to do his best to live up to a heroic tradition in a truly modern way. He’s not afraid to be honest about his emotions with his family and friends, and the result is an enjoyable superhero book that pays homage to tradition but updates the challenges to provide a fresh take on the history.