Blue Beetle: Graduation Day is the newest solo comics run of the modern Blue Beetle, Jaime Reyes. The six-issue mini from Josh Trujillo and Adrian Gutierrez continues from Jaime’s 2016 Rebirth series and comes at a time where the character’s profile is higher than ever. Inspired by the upcoming DC Studios film, Graduation Day aims for high synergy while balancing expansive new horizons with charming personal stakes for Jaime and his family.
Now a high school graduate, Jaime begins to feel mounting pressure from both his family and the superhero community to find a life for himself outside the comforts of home and the costume. As Jaime reckons with new anxieties, an interstellar empire from his past threatens to destroy everything he holds dear. Dealing in both extremely personal and intergalactic stakes, Blue Beetle: Graduation Day is entertaining and charming in equal measure, as well as a great distillation of what makes Jaime Reyes one of the most interesting legacy characters in the DC Universe.
The first time I saw Jaime in the Brave and the Bold cartoon as a kid, I was immediately attached to him as a fellow Latino; seeing someone who looked like me on screen fighting crime alongside Batman made me feel like a superhero myself. Ever since then, getting to see Jaime evolve in comics and on screen has only endeared him further to me over the years. His relatable interactions with his family and strong Latino identity combined with an endlessly creative powerset fueled my imagination and got me increasingly excited about the world of comics by association. Whenever Blue Beetle gets a new project, whether it be in TV, film, or comics, I’m always hopeful that another young, creative Latino mind sees him and feels the same inspiring connection I felt when I was their age.
Blue Beetle: Graduation Day was written by Josh Trujillo (Adventure Time, Captain America) with art by Adrian Gutierrez. The book was produced alongside the development of the upcoming Blue Beetle film, and includes certain creations of the film to both synergize with the big screen and to expand the world of Jaime Reyes beyond El Paso.
For example, Graduation Day introduces Palmera City to the comics as Jaime’s new home, a brand-new city featured in the film. The comic also incorporates Victoria Kord, the sister to Ted Kord, and a new character invented for the movie. Though the plots of the comic and film seem largely different, these bridges between the two should help current readers mesh with the world of the film and provide hooks for those looking to jump into the comics from the new movie.
The rundown of Graduation Day
Blue Beetle: Graduation Day is a charming story about forging a new identity beyond the legacy one inherits, bolstered by colorful forays into bombastic, sentai-style superhero action. Jaime’s struggles should be immediately relatable in their respects to finding your own path outside of the familiarity of home and finding parallels with both his family and his costumed lives. The heart of the Jaime Blue Beetle character has always been his complex and relatable connections with his family and friends, and Graduation Day presents some of the most compelling material on that front since Jaime’s 2006 debut.
Taking place after his parents kick him out to live away from home, Jaime Reyes is also told to take a break from his superhero duties for a time as a possible Reach-related threat is approaching Earth. The appearance of a new archenemy in the enigmatic Fadeaway and a sudden disconnect with the scarab only serve to further complicate things as Jaime navigates working for a living as well as an internship with Victoria Kord. With new, dangerous Beetles appearing out of nowhere, Jaime has to juggle his new responsibilities with threats that only he can manage, while every semblance of familiarity crumbles around him. Jaime has to figure out where he belongs in both of his lives, or it could very well mean the end of the world.
Writer Trujillo excels at the personal side of Jaime and the cast of characters by giving each one a distinct voice, as well as crafting scenarios that let you get to know the new additions easily and entertainingly. The interpersonal connections with Jaime and his friends and family feel authentic, lived-in, and provide charm in spades (Jaime and friends’ Spanish is used to great effect here), and the overall plotting takes the Blue Beetle legacy to brand new, inspired places.
Adrian Gutierrez’s art lends lots of expression and bombast to the book as well. The obvious anime inspiration feels right at home within the confines of the story and remains legible and eye-catching during its most action-packed scenes. Colorist Wil Quintana makes for a perfect partner for Gutierrez’s compositions as well, with bold, vibrant colors that perfectly accentuate the stylings of the characters and mood of the scenes, and letterer Lucas Gattoni’s font and stylization imparts the voice of the characters alongside the boundless energy of the writing and art commendably.
My reservations with Graduation Day largely lie with the pacing and care given to its characters near the end. Though it strikes a good balance between superheroics and personal stakes early on, the focus is lost as more of the DC Universe is integrated into the story. As a result, once-promising characters and interactions become scarce as the series gears up for its big finale. There’s also plenty of retread ground here for those who have read previous Blue Beetle comics; Jaime Reyes finding strength in his family is an arc that’s been repeated often throughout his adventures, and personal mileage may vary on its effectiveness depending on how well you feel this particular rendition stacks up to other runs.
For fans of Blue Beetle: Graduation Day, you shouldn’t have to wait too long for further adventures of Jaime Reyes. Alongside the upcoming movie, the creative team of Trujillo and Gutierrez are returning for a new Blue Beetle ongoing series in September following the events of Graduation Day. If you’d like to see more, keep tabs on Blue Beetle: Scarab War as it releases!
The cultural element of Jaime Reyes
A real highlight of the book is Trujillo’s willingness to emphasize Jaime and his family’s Latino identity through the constant use of Spanish. Full phrases and characters are voiced through untranslated Spanish, lending the book a sense of reality that non-Latino writers often fail to capture. While this does mean readers unfamiliar with Spanish may have to do some translating on their own, it’s worth it to have characters in a mainline DC title genuinely utilize the language well and without reservation.
In addition to the well-placed Spanish, the overall representation in Blue Beetle is tastefully done without feeling overly cloying. The Latino identity is at the forefront without feeling overbearing, and Trujillo includes overt LGBT representation without drawing unnecessary attention or feeling the need to sanitize the characters. These characters feel like fully-formed people with strong identities without sacrificing their individual personalities, which is always a treat to read.
Is Blue Beetle: Graduation Day new reader friendly?
Even though this is the fourth series starring Jaime Reyes as the third Blue Beetle, Graduation Day remains easily accessible for new readers and fans of Jaime from the Young Justice TV show. It’s best suited for those with at least mild experience in the DC Universe at large as a result of its character cameos and the general state of the universe at the time of its start. It’s helpful to have context both for Jaime’s character, his legacy, and the Reach’s effect on him and the scarab beforehand.
The Blue Beetle name has a long legacy attached to it, and each bearer of the mantle has been crucial to Jaime’s own journey. The original cerulean crusader was Dan Garrett, appearing first in 1939 with a suit of armor and the powerful enhancements of Vitamin 2X. Garrett would later be relaunched under the ownership of Charlton Comics after a hiatus, ditching the vitamins for the mystical might of a mysterious scarab he found in some Egyptian ruins.
After his death, the scarab was passed down to the second Blue Beetle, Ted Kord. Kord was a businessman who preferred to use his own brand of technology to fight crime since he couldn’t activate the seemingly inert scarab himself. Eventually, the scarab reawakened and found its way to Jaime Reyes, thrusting the high-schooler into a life of superheroics as the current Blue Beetle!
While in Jaime’s possession, the scarab was revealed to be a superweapon from a tyrannical alien empire known as the Reach. Despite being intended as a means of infiltration and domination, the scarab’s programming was corrupted enough for Jaime to bend it to his own will as a tool for justice on Earth.
For Jaime Reyes’ full comics history, check out our Blue Beetle reading guide here!
Blue Beetle Jaime Reyes comics recommendations:
- Blue Beetle (2006) #1-36
- Blue Beetle: Rebirth (2016) #1
- Blue Beetle (2016) #1-18
- Blue Beetle: Graduation Day (2022) #1-6
Adapting Blue Beetle: Graduation Day on screen
Though the Blue Beetle film may share elements with Graduation Day, the film will not be adapting this particular run. The biggest inclusions between the two seem to be the new setting of Palmera City and the new character of Ted Kord’s sister, Victoria Kord. Instead of a high-stakes Reach-related event, the film seems like it will focus mainly on Jaime’s family relationships as he struggles to master the scarab for the first time.
Overall, it seems like this initial Blue Beetle appearance will take more from introductory Jaime runs such as his 2006 debut series, as Graduation Day is dependent on a more experienced Jaime and a fully fleshed-out DC universe. However, this miniseries could serve as easy inspiration for new storylines in the future of James Gunn’s new DC Universe.
Should the Reach appear in the film, their further effects could lead to a Graduation Day storyline wherein more Beetle superweapons are found on Earth, leading to new hosts and new threats for Jaime to fight. In addition, this run features ample use of characters in the larger DC Universe. Were this to take place after more heroes are established in the new cinematic DCU, adapting Graduation Day could be an easy crossover event where everyone across the universe bands together to help Jaime as they do in the comic.
My verdict on Blue Beetle: Graduation Day
Blue Beetle: Graduation Day is, above all else, one of the first Blue Beetle stories to go beyond the need for an introduction to Jaime Reyes. Where many Blue Beetle solo books are focused on Jaime’s early career, this is a direct follow-up to early adventures that left me feeling quite pleased as someone who had gotten tired of retreading the same ground. Its anime stylings and new sentai-inspired characters may feel a bit out of place in the DCU at large, but on the whole, Josh Trujillo and Adrian Gutierrez have created a vibrant new world for Jaime to explore with the rest of the DC Universe.
The personal connection to the Latino identity is strong, the characters share plenty of charming moments and insightful exchanges with one another, and the series expands on the history of the DCU in new and exciting ways that I cannot wait to see more of. The art is kinetic and impactful, if a bit goofy and over-stylized at times, but overall it brings a bold sense of color and energy to the world as they craft some very striking designs among new and old characters. If you’re looking for a series to read after the incredible 2006 run, this would absolutely be my highest recommendation for more Jaime adventures. Here’s hoping the follow-up in Blue Beetle: Scarab War will be just as good!
Have you seen Blue Beetle in Young Justice or Brave in the Bold? Are you excited for Jaime’s potential future in the DCU? Let us know on Twitter and remember to follow the site @MyCosmicCircus for more DCU coverage coming soon!
[Note: The above review was written by guest writer AJ DeMorado]