“Black Magic Woman”
This is simultaneously an enjoyable and difficult review for me to write. On the enjoyable side, Blue Beetle has been a terrific read from day one, and it’s always been a pleasure to sing its praises in hopes of adding to the audience for this underappreciated gem. That tradition continues in this issue, despite the use of a fill-in writer and artist. On the difficult side, what does one say about a book that is simply a good book? It’s so much easier to criticize – once you say something is good, what else does one say?
So let’s start with some criticism that turns to praise – or maybe it’s praise that turns to criticism that turns to praise. Whatever. Let’s just start.
This is a great jumping on point for new readers, as one gets a crash introduction to much of the supporting cast and to the book’s basic premise – Jamie as a teen struggling to have a normal life, including such little pleasantries as dating – while he also does his best to save lives and fight evil. On the other hand, this issue doesn’t just tread water, biding time until the new creative team takes over. We get to see a little of the strange, supernatural home life of Traci, Jamie’s girlfriend, and a snag is introduced to their relationship as Jamie begins showing feelings of inadequacy over his need to depend on her for the superhero half of his life.
On the other hand, this illustrates what’s arguably a shortcoming in the book: It’s a tad formulaic at times. Evil intrudes upon Jamie’s life, his friends and family help come to the rescue, he manages to save the day and retreat to semi-normalcy. It’s just Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but the protagonist is a boy in a blue suit. He has his own Scooby Gang, his own supernatural significant other, and even has a high school where magical shenanigans are occasionally par for the course.
But who cares? It may have a tendency to fall into being Buffy-esque at times – some times more than others; this issue even uses the “Monster of the Week” formula that was so often used in the first three seasons of Buffy. On the other hand, the characters are charming and fun to read, and readers are given plenty of reason to care about them, to be emotionally invested in their lives.
That holds true in this issue. Yes, the story is clichéd and far from innovative. But the dialogue is sharp, the characters are fun, and the protagonist is actually changed by the events in the story. As for the art, Baldeon and Bird’s work is appropriately light and “cartoony”, in keeping with the usually fluffy, fun feel of the book, but realistic enough to convey a sense of danger during the fight scenes. Furthermore, the action is easy to follow – one could easily grasp nearly all of this story without reading any of the text.
So in short, this is another great installment in a great title. The new creative team will have quite a tall task in front of them when they finally take the reins – even the fill-in creative teams on this title have delivered terrific comics. But I’ve reason to be confident; when Ted Kord was bumped off, Jamie Reyes had big shoes to fill, too, and look how that turned out.
What did you think of this book?
Have your say at the Line of Fire Forum!