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Review Date: 09/19/2008

 Blue Beetle #29
Written by Matthew Sturges;
Art and cover by Rafael Albuquerque

    The superhero Blue Beetle has a long and distinguished comic book history.  There are actually three well-known versions of this character; the first appeared in 1939, while the second was published in the 1950's and 60's as a very popular Charlton Comics character.  I remember the 60's version as a guy who was embodied with superhero powers derived from an ancient Egyptian artifact shaped like a scarab, or beetle, hence the "blue beetle" name.
    D.C. bought-out Charlton's superhero line-up back in the early 1980's and has since used the Blue Beetle sporadically.  In 2006, they came-out with the current version.  Here, the Blue Beetle is teenager Jaime Reyes, who lives with his parents and younger sister in El Paso, Texas, trying to deal with the issues of being a young teenager and dealing with his new-found superhero abilities and responsibilities.
     Issue #29 is part one of a multi-issue story arc entitled Boundaries.  It's written by Matthew Sturges with art by Rafael Albuquerque.  Both issue #29 and part two of the storyline in issue #30 are currently available on the new comic issues wall at That's Entertainment.
      This is a high quality, entertaining comic on several levels.  First, it's just a refreshing, unique world-line from most of the other storylines currently inhabiting the D.C. Universe.  It's interesting to see an Hispanic character and his family living in the multi-cultural world of the Texas border.  The storyline well-represents this culture, as indicated by the story title "Boundaries."  The Blue Beetle and his friends and allies are dealing here with the complex issue of illegal immigrant border crossings, as well as the boundaries between genuine law enforcement issues vs. vigilante rage and frustration.
     Writer Matthew Sturges is very skilled at mixing light humor with story action and drama.  There's a very funny sub-plot weaved-in here regarding the Blue Beetle dealing with two other local superheros who are deciding in their own dim-witted way which one inherits the more respected name and legacy of a deceased superhero.
     This comic is the best I've read in years in credibly and realistically portraying the difficulties that a young teenager would have in actually being a superhero.  Jaime Reyes is not in this alone.  Sturges has him surrounded by a circle of family, friends and allies, all of whom are there for him in many ways.  There's a wonderful set of panels in this story portraying Jaime's parents and sister sitting in their living room watching him as the Blue Beetle stutter his way on television through a press conference, with the folks and sister all agreeing that "Jaime really sucks at being on TV."  Much more real and enjoyable than the standard "no one must ever know who I am" teen-age hero routine!
      Kudos to D.C. for reinventing the hallowed Blue Beetle character with cultural relevance and basic good quality.  Here's hoping that Sturges and Albuquerque keep-up the excellent creative teamwork.  While I recommend this comic to all good D.C. readers, its highly recommended for teenagers looking for a comic book to personally relate to.  I think I'll even e-mail my old college buddy Ron N., a big fan of the old Charlton Comics Blue Beetle, and tell him to give the new issues a read!


 Tor #5
Written by Joe Kubert
Art and cover by Joe Kubert

    My second review this week is also a classic comic hero, this time the prehistoric hero Tor.  This is issue #5 in a six-issue D.C. mini-series.  The full title is "Joe Kubert's Tor," and rightly so.  Classic D.C. comic artist, writer and creator Joe Kubert initially created his cavemen wanderer-hero back in the 1950's, and has sporadically revisited this world over the decades.
    This mini-series is part of a current D.C. effort to bring back their former Prehistory Hero, Western and Army comics.  I was concerned when I selected this comic that it might disappoint, as can often happen when an aging creator takes another stab at an old, hallowed character that he gave us.
    Happily, I was not disappointed.  As expected, Joe Kubert proves that as with his generational peer Will Eisner, even in the late stages of his career he can still deliver the goods just as well as in the old days.
     The storyline here is nothing new, with Tor trying to make his way through this mini-series back to his prehistoric tribe, all the while protecting a damsel in distress along with lost children, while battling the creatures of this lost prehistoric world.
    Two features of this comic are classic and wonderful.  First is Kubert's amazing ability that he has portrayed since the beginning of the Tor line to deliver the story non-verbally.  None of the prehistoric characters speak, yet Kubert's narration along with the art are so engrossing that the reader hardly notices.  Secondly, Kubert is not resting on his previous story laurels.  There is a complex, literary plot filling out the basic storyline here, with Kubert updating his prehistoric jungle world to the modern narrative dinosaur details that we first met in Spielberg's Jurassic Park movie series.
     Overall, much credit but also a thank you to the esteemed Joe Kubert for putting in the effort of giving us a quality and detailed new Tor storyline.  While you might want to look for back issues of issues #1 through #4, the good D.C. reader can easily enjoy issue #5 and the upcoming #6 on their own.  Here's hoping that D.C. plans to reprint all six issues of this mini-series in a graphic novel format.


NEW CONTEST ANNOUNCEMENT!

Word on the internet is that the next Batman Dark Knight movie will feature Cher playing an older, vamp version of Catwoman.  The grapevine mentioned that prior to this decision, there was a debate within Warner Brothers regarding going this route or having a younger, more A-list actress play the part, such as Angelina Jolie, but the studio execs backing the Cher option won out.
 
Our contest is for you to best make your case to us regarding who you think would be the best Catwoman and why, whether you choose Cher, Angelina Jolie or some other actress.  This is sort of like that debate back in the 1980's when the post office had a contest for issuing a "young Elvis" or "old Elvis" stamp!  In that instance, they ended-up issuing both, but in our contest you have to choose one and only one Catwoman, so send those e-mails in to gordon_a@msn.com!

 
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