And so The Little Series That Couldn’t finally meets its end. It’s hard to know exactly what else Blue Beetle could have done to earn some much-needed support from DC – apparently, coming up with the best new lead character the publisher has had in years, not to mention a superb and immediately-engaging supporting cast, throwing in a unique and kind of brilliant costume and power set, enjoying immediate popularity when translating the character to a new popular Batman cartoon series, being more respectful to the character’s antecedents than Dan Didio has ever been, and telling stories that start out as witty teen-tries-to-cope-with-powers comedy drama (under Giffen and Rogers) before exploding into an utterly awesome and epic alien invasion saga (under Rogers solo), simply won’t cut it if you’re not written by Geoff Johns. Alright, so the series had settled down into being “good” rather than “excellent” under Matthew Sturges, and never seemed to have quite the same visual spark without Cully Hamner or Rafael Albuquerque on art duties, but it was still generally entertaining and one of DC’s absolute best current superhero books – so cutting the series so drastically short and fobbing Jaime off into the terminally-dull Teen Titans seems like unduly harsh punishment.
As it happens, underneath a wonderful Hamner cover (echoing his equally wonderful cover to #1) is an issue that sees the title going out with a bit of a whimper, rather than a bang. There’s a definite sense of trying to tidy up Jaime’s individual mythology and supporting cast as quickly as possible – so as to leave him little in the way of unnecessary baggage for his ongoing team-based adventues – and it’s probably this that results in the rushed and somewhat ill-thought-out sudden death of one of those secondary characters. There’s nothing like enough page time for the likes of Paco, Brenda and Traci – the people who’ve helped make the book so distinctively great – and the battle with the Kdra, despite its tragic consequences, feels too inconsequential when compared with the final issues of Rogers’ run. Visually it suffers, too, and you can’t help but wish Hamner had been able to return for the interiors as well as the cover. It feels rushed and particularly sloppy in the closing pages, while I still can’t get over how Barberi misinterprets the “horns” on the back of the costume, especially as you’ve got them being done properly on the issue’s front.
But Sturges still knows how to throw out some neat moments, and he – like Rogers – is suitably respectful of the legacy of the Blue Beetle name, so there’s plenty of spiel in Jaime’s “hero reconsidering his role” internal monologue (a standard feature of any character’s final issue) about living up to Kord and Garrett. Indeed, it’s this that leads to perhaps the best moment of the writer’s brief run – as Jaime falls through space, he ponders that “Dan Garrett in this situation would probably have done something dashing and bold that got him out of the scrape just in the nick of time. Ted Kord would have done something clever and out of left field. And he would have chuckled while he did it. But I don’t know what Dan would have done. And I don’t know what Ted would have done. I’m not them,” before coming up with a solution that combines the best of both of them. It’s a lovely moment, and demonstrative of what this character and series are… were… capable of.
It’s a crying shame that DC haven’t given this excellent title more support – I know that when something’s just not selling, it’s not selling, but I’ve never seen promotional material for it like I have for, say, Captain Britain, and simply not bothering to try and capitalise on the success of Jamie’s Brave and the Bold episode was downright baffling – and it makes me more than a little annoyed at them. I’ll be trying to keep up with Jaime’s future adventures as best as possible, and hopefully his supporting cast will still be around as well – but the unique little niche that Blue Beetle had carved out for itself will be sorely missed.