Pow! To the People 09.28.08

bluebeetle-header.jpgBetter late than never, Art Brut frontman Eddie Argos returns with another dispatch, this time tackling DC’s new Mexican hero Blue Beetle and the "indescribably good" Y: The Last Man.




One of the very many reasons I shouldn’t have a fortnightly column about comics is that I’m terrible at keeping deadlines. I always get this column to Jason at Playback at least two days late, and that’s even when I have a six-hour time difference on my side. It’s late this time for a number of reasons: I only got back home on Monday, I’ve been writing and rehearsing every day since I got back, my mum and sister came to visit, I spent all last night writing it but left it on the bus, the dog ate it, etc., etc. Actually, the sad truth is that it’s always a bit late because I have spent the last three years touring/drinking solidly and I’ve forgotten even the most basic English that I learned at school, so now I have to get my girlfriend Dyan, who lives in a different time zone and has proper work to do, to edit it before I’m brave enough to let Playback see it, as I don’t want them to know that I am a borderline illiterate. Which is also another reason why I shouldn’t have a fortnightly column about comics.

This fortnight began at Dyan’s house, where there was a big pile of comics from DC waiting to be read, including nearly the entire current run of Blue Beetle. I’m now missing only the first few issues, which unfortunately had my favourite superhero Booster Gold in them. I spent a short time trying to collect every comic Booster Gold appeared in, and narrowly missing out on a couple he was in has re-awoken that passion. I think I’m about to spend a lot of time on eBay.

The cover to Blue Beetle's first issue by Cully Hamner. Click for a larger image.Despite missing the Booster Gold issues, I really enjoyed the new Blue Beetle. It is very much a continuation of the Blue Beetle story, with plenty of references to the legacy of Ted Kord whilst also managing to add a lot more to Blue Beetle’s history, including where the scarab originally came from and what it was for. Jaime Reyes, the new Blue Beetle, is sixteen and still living with his parents, who know his identity (as do his friends). A lot of the book is about him coming to terms with his new powers and the reactions of his parents and friends to them, which at times can make it feel a bit like a substandard version of the Image Comics Invincible title. Although that isn’t really a fair comparison, as Invincible began with a clean slate and its own universe, whereas Blue Beetle has to fit into the DC community and has to be recognised as continuation of a character who has been around for forty years. This can also make it more enjoyable to read, though. When Jaime meets Superman or Batman for the first time, you’re excited for him as you know who they are and have read countless stories about their past adventures. You can’t really get the same thrill with Invincible, as it’s a relatively new comic. There are a few shaky issues of Blue Beetle, but when it finds its feet and settles down, it becomes a really enjoyable comic. I’m definitely going to look in on it now and again, and am already looking forward to the next issue.

Jaime Reyes (Blue Beetle) is Mexican. In fact, he is the only Mexican superhero I can think of. There is even a special issue written entirely in Spanish with a translation at the back. I thought that was pretty cool. When I got home on Tuesday night, my plan was to read a couple of issues of Y: The Last Man and to write something comparing how Blue Beetle has a lot of Mexican characters and culture within its stories and Y: The Last Man is a comic almost entirely populated with women, and how that is such a positive and refreshing thing to see in a medium that’s almost entirely about white men. It probably would have been very twee, cliché-ridden, politicised, borderline offensive and crass. Luckily, I didn’t have time to write it as Y: The Last Man is incredibly readable and addictive. I’ve spent the entire day in bed reading all ten books.

The cover to the first collected edition of Y: The Last Man, featuring art by J.G. Jones. Click for a larger image.Another reason I probably shouldn’t have a column reviewing comics is that when I come across something as good as Y: The Last Man or the Essex County trilogy I reviewed the other week, I just want to describe them as "indescribably good," which isn’t very helpful as a review. Y: The Last Man is a fantastic book. It’s about the last man on earth, avoids all the stereotypes you would imagine a comic about that to entail, and manages to feel like an incredibly realistic version of what the world would be like if all the men did suddenly die. The best review I can give it is that once I started reading it, I couldn’t put it down. I carried on reading until I fell asleep. When I woke up, I carried on reading. I didn’t even stop to eat, missing both dinner and breakfast and then having a very late lunch. I laughed out loud at parts of it and cried at the end (although to be fair, that may have had something to do with the fact that somebody was playing some very sad Belle and Sebastian songs in the other room as I finished it). It is indescribably good.

So even though I shouldn’t even really be writing a column about comics (as I’m borderline illiterate, terrible with deadlines and I spend all day in bed reading graphic novels), I’m actually intending on writing something a bit bigger about DC comics. If anybody wants to recommend their favourite stories to me, or to let me know why Green Lantern isn’t a boring waste of time that can be beaten up with a banana, they can email me at eddie.argos.resource@gmail.com. Your input would be greatly appreciated.

Jason, apologies in advance — my next Pow! To The People will be late again, because I’m about to spend all my time buying Booster Gold comics from eBay. | Eddie Argos

In this edition:

Blue Beetle (DC Comics; 2006-present)

32 pgs. full color; $2.99 each

(W: John Rogers, Keith Giffen, and others; A: Cully Hamner, Rafael Albuquerque, and others)

Y: The Last Man Vol. 1-10 (DC/Vertigo; 2002-2008)

128-192 pgs. full color; $12.99-$14.99 ea.

(W: Brian K. Vaughan; P: Pia Guerra, with Goran Sudzuka and Paul Chadwick; I: Jose Marzan Jr.)

To read the first issue of Y: The Last Man, courtesy of DC Comics, visit http://www.dccomics.com/media/excerpts/1736_1.pdf  

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