Growing up isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. When you’re younger, you think that becoming an adult means freedom. Instead, it’s a new set of responsibilities – most of which you have to handle yourself. Throw in a piece of alien technology that transforms you into a superhero, and it’s a whole new ballgame. That’s only the tip of the iceberg for Jaime Reyes in Blue Beetle: Graduation Day #1 from Josh Trujillo, Adrian Gutierrez, Wil Quintana and Lucas Gattoni.
True to its name, the first issue of Graduation Day finds Jaime graduating from high school. He’s late to his ceremony because of a superhero battle, and like most kids his age, he finds himself at a crossroads. And then there’s the looming threat of the alien race known as the Reach, who built Jaime’s scarab. But all that pales in comparison to the true challenge of having to get a job and a new place.
Trujillo has a great grasp of Jaime’s mindset, unfurling the young hero’s anxieties at starting a new chapter in his life. “For so long, I feel like all I’ve ever wanted to do was survive,” he says in one panel, “The future has been the last thing on my mind.” It’s a statement that may resonate with many viewers, especially younger ones. In a world that seems to be constantly changing, all we can do is survive – and we don’t have superpowers to help us out. I also commend Trujillo for crafting a story that manages to stand on its own two feet, as well as tap into its protagonist’s Hispanic heritage. (And DC definitely did well to publish both an English and Spanish-language version of this comic.)
This is also a great-looking book thanks to Gutierrez’s artwork. Gutierrez has an animated quality to his style that makes it feel less like you’re reading a comic and more like storyboards for an animated series. When Blue Beetle transforms, his scarab flows like water over his body. When he’s sent flying from a punch, a trail of blue follows him. And when he flies into outer space, he becomes a sonic streak of blue. Gutierrez also makes his characters extremely expressive, and that goes double for Jaime whether he’s in civilian clothes or his Blue Beetle armor. His eyes widen with shock, or his face will cloud with doubt, cluing the reader into his mood.
Topping off the artwork is Quintana on colors and true to the protagonist’s nom de guerre, blue is an extremely prominent color. It’s laced throughout Jaime’s clothing – even his graduation robe is a deep blue. And the narrative captions from Gattoni are also a bright blue, as well as beetle shaped. El Paso is bathed in warm sunlight, and the cold void of outer space is dipped entirely in black. Quintana really knows how to use color to his advantage and makes the book sing.
Blue Beetle: Graduation Day #1 is the perfect jumping-on point for fans who’ve been anxiously awaiting Jaime Reyes’ new adventure, as well as those looking forward to the upcoming Blue Beetle movie. And the end page promises that even though he’s left high school behind, there’s still plenty of challenges for the Blue Beetle left to overcome.
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