Blue Beetle Graduation Day #5
Superman and Batman come looking for Jaime in Palmera City. After weeks of attacks with Blue Beetle directly at the center, the World's Finest can't sit by any longer. They're going to get to the bottom of Jaime's connection to the impending Reach invasion, even if it means putting an end to his life as a hero!
Jaime Reyes spent four issues being pulled this way and that, eventually being so unsure of what he could or should do that he helped an enemy rob a friend and ally. He still can’t talk to his scarab, Khaji Da, and now both beetles that wanted to kill him are on the loose. Jaime needs to grow up if he’s going to take control of his situation, and Blue Beetle Graduation Day #5 is the perfect time to do so.
Nitida and Dynastes, the green and yellow beetles, are on the loose when Blue Beetle Graduation Day #5 begins, and no less than Flash, Shazam, Cyborg, and Green Lantern Jessica Cruz have entered the fight against them. Jaime starts on the sidelines, having been completely fooled into helping his enemy Fadeaway steal tech from Victoria Kord’s vault. But it’s not long before he jumps in the fight, determined not to let the other heroes imprison or kill the beetles out of their fear of the Reach. During the battle, Jaime is hit by friendly fire and knocked unconscious. While he’s out, Jaime has a dream/vision where his parents are pushing him to go to college and not throw away his life, and the Reach is urging him to join them. After pushing back on both, Jaime realizes that fear has been holding him and Khaji Da back during this threat. And they fear that they need to overcome.
Blue Beetle Graduation Day #5 gets to the heart of what Jaime has been unable to voice until this moment: that he’s afraid. In the series, he’s been surrounded by outside influences, all of whom think they know what’s best for him: his parents wanting him to go to college, Batman, and Superman wanting him to take time away from superheroine, and the Reach for wanting him to join them. This mirrors what everyone goes through as they transition into adulthood. At some point, the questions of who and what you want to have must be answered. Trujillo sets Jaime’s moment of decision in a dream sequence in the middle of a fight. It’s an abbreviated moment, but it’s well-timed because he’s returning to the battle (with new armor, no less), effectively representing his choice. Trujillo can realize this moment in Jaime’s arc with a minimum of dialogue or internal monologue; Jaime doesn’t have to tell us what he’s decided because we can see it for ourselves.
Jaime’s literal graduation in the series’ first issue was never what the story is about. Blue Beetle Graduation Day #5 features the graduation that matters–however unofficial. And this moment–Jaime overcoming his fear–is accompanied by the heroes around him realizing they were wrong to tell the young man what was best for him. It may be a cliché, but this scene has much “you are now a man” energy. Trujillo’s script delivers a very human, very recognizable moment.
There is also a standout moment when Kory confronts Cyborg and reminds him that they made plenty of mistakes in their journey to becoming heroes. It’s fundamental wisdom, but it’s worth saying because people tend to forget their mistakes as they get older.
Unfortunately, Blue Beetle Graduation Day #5 lacks any follow-up on the incident with Fadeaway’s last issue, which suggests everything about that was a complicated red herring. Hopefully, that turns out not to be the case.
Gutiérrez’s art is frenetic throughout the issue. Blue Beetle Graduation Day #5 is heavy on action, and many of the visuals are in a state of barely controlled chaos. Gutiérrez jumps between the individual confrontations within the giant fight, and in each instance, he transitions between close-up, medium distance, and wide angles with each panel. The bulk of the action also occurs on pages with asymmetrical panel layouts. Gutiérrez pulls the reader into the action with the first page, and even in the quieter moments, he never lets them go.
After a somewhat restrained fourth issue, Quintana goes all out here. The intense, vibrant coloring is back in this issue. Most battle sequences are set against yellows and oranges, making every character stand out. Even if Quintana didn’t already favor an overall brighter look, the contrast brings every character to life and matches the high energy of Gutiérrez’s work.
However, Quintana’s standout moment is the three-page dream sequence where Jaime confronts his fear. Quintana gives the series an overexposed feel, first with yellow and pink when engaging his parents and the Reach, and then in blues as he reflects on being Blue Beetle. Gutiérrez’s art doesn’t do much to separate this from reality, and it might have come across as more of a flashback than an internal monologue. Quintana moves it into a whole new space.
Gattoni likewise cuts loose on this issue. He frequently uses oversized and highlighted words in dialogue bubbles to convey emotion and emphasis. Sometimes this takes the form of exasperated or energetic phrases. Other times it’s in urgent calls to other characters. Gattoni makes an exciting choice with Flash’s dialogue, highlighting it with red and yellow, transitioning between the colors from left to right. It’s especially effective in a sequence with Jaime when Jaime says Flash is talking too fast for Jaime to understand him.
Particularly effective is Gattoni’s depiction of Khaji Da’s dialogue. All series has been unintelligible on the page–a representation of Jaime’s inability to understand his scarab. Rather than move immediately from incomprehensible to legible in two bubbles, the unintelligible dialogue slowly morphs, from dialogue bubble to dialogue bubble, into easy-to-read English (in English printing).
Blue Beetle Graduation Day is one of those series where it’s obvious how integral every member of the creative team is to the book’s success. As a result the series becomes more than the sum of its parts. Blue Beetle Graduation Day #5 is the most shining example yet. It’s hard to imagine this book being done in any other way by any other team, and it once again outshines the competition.
Blue Beetle Graduation Day #5: Old Enough to Choose
- Writing - 9/109/10
- Storyline - 9/109/10
- Art - 10/1010/10
- Color - 10/1010/10
- Cover Art - 8.5/108.5/10