I was introduced to Cully Hamner’s artwork with his professional debut on Green Lantern: Mosaic, longer ago than Hamner might like to admit (I kid). I remember finding his art to be raw and energetic but not as refined as I might have liked. Forgive me, I was young. But it stood out because it was different, and Hamner’s name was registered in the back of my mind.
Over the years, I’ve appreciated watching Hamner grow as an artist. His uncluttered linework exhibits a mastery of how to effectively tell a comic story. I loved his work with Greg Rucka on the Renee Montoya Question back-up feature they did in Detective Comics. So, when I noticed the Blue Beetle: Shellshocked collection in the UMaine library where I work, I took it out to see what this “new” Blue Beetle was like, before he became new again with the recent DC relaunch.
This book was great, and so much fun! I loved learning about Jaime Reyes and this new iteration of the Beetle. I enjoyed seeing him do his research into the legacy of the character, working to discover exactly what he might be in for. I appreciated the fact that this hero was Latino, and that the creators (Keith Giffen, John Rogers, Hamner, et al.) portrayed this reality without hammering away at the clichés that can quickly descend such a scenario into farce. It felt genuine, and I applaud the creators and DC Comics for trying to broaden the spectrum of heroes within “mainstream” comics with this character.
One of the best things about this opening collection is the fact that Jaime, along with readers, is learning about his new powers as the story progresses. He isn’t adept at fighting – clumsily attacking some “men in black” at the Mexican border – and he knows very little about the armor that covers him when he manifests his Beetle powers. This adds authenticity to Jaime’s story, and makes readers sympathetic to his cause, while also providing interesting story possibilities.
Jaime’s interaction with his family, as well as that of his friends, provides a nice counter-balance to his new heroic persona. A good student, who is also a good person, Jaime feels different from other characters. It’s not just because of his ethnic background. Jaime is a real teenager, without the burden of personal tragedy that seems to be grafted onto most contemporary heroes. There is also a big question in his recent history that, I assume, had ramifications down the line in this series, but it is only hinted at in this first volume, and I’d rather not spoil it for anyone who might want to go back and check this out, as I did. It really adds a new dimension to Jaime’s character very early in his story.
And the art in this book – provided by Hamner, Cynthia Martin, Duncan Rouleau, Kevin West, Phil Moy, and Jack Purcell – is really lovely. Clean lines, dynamic cartooning, and work inspired by manga all add up to an energetic and fun read. If you like expressive artwork that tells a story well, this is a book for you.
My hope is that the new iteration of Blue Beetle in the DCnU retains the fun aspect this first volume exhibits. But for now, I would highly recommend checking this, and any subsequent volumes, out. I know I will.