Character of the Week: Jaime Reyes, the Blue Beetle

In the middle of Infinite Crisis, a supercharged scarab is flung around the world in an explosion, and is found by an unsuspecting young Texan called Jaime. That night, it bonded to his spine, and he became the superhero known as Blue Beetle.

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Blue Beetle vol. 8 #0, by Keith Giffen, Tony Bedard, Ig Guara & J.P. Mayer

 

But let’s backtrack for a second! Jaime isn’t the first person to take the name. That would be Dan Garrett. He was the original owner of the scarab, and he had a lot of adventures in Foxy Comics and Charlton Comics. Then Ted Kord took over the role, and whilst he didn’t get the scarab till later, it didn’t have any effect on him, and he fought crime regardless. He had no powers, and was basically a bright blue, tech-based Batman, who also adventured in Charlton Comics before transferring to the DC Universe with a bunch of other heroes in Crisis on Infinite Earths, where he lived for a while, until he died in Infinite Crisis. You got all that?

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Blue Beetle vol. 7 #1, by Keith Giffen, John Rogers & Cully Hamner

 

Back to Jaime then. There was a big explosion when Ted Kord died, the scarab was sent flying to Texas, where Jaime found it. At first, when it bonded with him, he thought it was magical in origin, but quickly he found out that it was actually alien technology, from a race called the Reach, who fought the Green Lantern Corps. In fact, after his first fight in Infinite Crisis the scarab teleports Jaime home, away from the Lanterns fighting with him, and accidentally time jumps him forwards by a year. Life for his family and friends had significantly changed in that time, and, unlike many heroes, Jaime was very open with them about his new identity as Blue Beetle.

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Jaime in Young Justice

 

The Reach weren’t best pleased that Jaime’s scarab, a weapon with which they would invade Earth, was in possession of a human and seemingly malfunctioning, so they came into conflict. It was during their ongoing fights that Jaime joined up with the Teen Titans, eventually becoming a member of the team after overcoming confidence issues. (This relationship was also shown in the DC animated series Young Justice, before it was unfortunately cancelled.) But then, as these DC tales always go, Barry Allen messed with the timestream, and things got broken.

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Blue Beetle vol. 7 #36, by Matt Sturges and Rafael Albuquerque, cover by Cully Hamner

 

His origin was changed, as Infinite Crisis no longer happened, but he was still attached to a Reach scarab. This time, the scarab was broken, allowing for Jaime to remain uncontrolled when the Reach try to attack him. He teams up with Kyle Rayner to save a planet being attacked by the reach. But, ultimately, not much happens, because Jaime was criminally underused in the New 52, which is something I’m not at all happy with DC about.

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But, with DC Rebirth, Jaime is back. Interestingly, so is Ted Kord, and they are currently teaming up to fight crime. Two generations of the same hero, fighting alongside one another. Now that is a legacy hero. Not Batman with his legion of sidekicks that have gone on to outshine him, not Superman and his son – though that is hella close. No, this is a hero who died, coaching and fighting with the hero that took his mantle. And I love it.

~

James, The Wonder Witch

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Character of the Week: The Wasp

Janet van Dyne is a legend. Created purely so Ant-Man had a female sidekick, she grew quickly to be a founding Avenger, and from there has only gone on to greater heights.

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Tales to Astonish #44, by Stan Lee & Jack Kirby

 

Okay, so I made that statement for the puns, but still, it is totally true. As you can see above in her first issue, she’s a “partner-in-peril”, and she stayed that way for a while. Even though she was a founding Avenger, she got in trouble a fair amount to begin with, but thankfully her role grew pretty rapidly. Okay, I’ll stop with the puns.

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Avengers #57, by Roy Thomas & John Buscema

 

Janet was the first Avenger to meet Vision, as shown above, and also the first to get married, to her long time partner Hank Pym, also known as Ant-Man, Goliath, Giant Man, and, when they got engaged, Yellowjacket. The story of the wedding is quite an interesting one actually, as Hank becomes Yellowjacket, and seemingly kills his old identity, and none of the Avengers other than Jan know what happened, so when they get married there is an understandable amount of doubt! You can see the gist of it below, from Avengers #59 and #60.

Even at this point, Jan is frequently seen as either a hassle to the team, or just someone that needs saving, but that changed in Avengers #83, where she, and a team of other women led by Enchantress posing as Valkyrie, beat the Avengers and the Masters of Evil, and from there she was portrayed better.

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Avengers #83, by Roy Thomas & John Buscema

 

Unfortunately, Hank Pym has one of his multiple breakdowns, leading to this…

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Avengers #213, by Jim Shooter & Bob Hall

 

…and their relationship understandably breaks off, leading to a divorce. She was leader of the team for a long time, on & off, to the extent that I believe she held the title of leader for longer than any other member, except maybe Captain America. She was leader of the team when Baron Zemo and the Masters of Evil invaded and took over Avengers Mansion, she fought off Absorbing Man and Titania from killing a comatose Hercules, before leading a team and taking back the mansion.

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Avengers #275, by Roger Stern, John Buscema & Tom Palmer

 

After many leaves of absence, being sent to a different universe by Franklin Richards and a bunch of other boring stuff, Jan makes an offhand comment to Scarlet Witch about having kids. Which she doesn’t anymore, and her memory had been removed of it. And then Scarlet Witch goes nuts and creates the House of M universe. Yup, Jan messed up.

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House of M #2, by Brian Michael Bendis & Olivier Coipel

 

And then Janet plays a major part in yet another event, this time Secret Invasion, where she is used as a biological weapon by the Skrulls, and gets killed by Thor to stop her exploding. I say killed, she is transported to the Microverse and comes back later to join the Uncanny Avengers, but hey, she died for a while, aight?

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Secret Invasion #8, by Brian Michael Bendis & Leinil Yu

 

But what about now? What is she doing at the moment? Well, mentoring her namesake, the new Wasp, Nadia Pym. It’s no big spoiler to say that a new Wasp appears in the current All-New All-Different Avengers run, and Janet appears to help out with adjusting the new Wasp to heroics.

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All-New, All-Different Avengers #12, by Mark Waid & Mahmud Asrar

 

So what makes Janet Van Dyne so great? Is it her multitude of costumes? She makes a lot of them herself you know, she’s a fashion designer. Is it her size changing powers that let her grow and shrink? Is it the bio-engineered wings that are grafted onto her back? Is it the energy blasts she can fire to sting her enemies? Nah, its her personality. It’s her strength of will, her courage, her determination, but most of all, her empathy. You can come to her with anything, any troubles, any situation, and she will understand and help you with it. Hell, she did just that when her step-daughter, Nadia, was brought to her doorstep by Jarvis, as you can see above. She is one of the kindest people in the entire Marvel universe, and a literal living legend.

Character of the Week: Kyle Rayner

Kyle Rayner was a graphic artist. Yup, he drew comic books.

Automatically, that means he is pretty cool. The fact that he then got given a Green Lantern ring makes him even cooler.

Hal Jordan, the first member of the Green Lantern Corps to come from Earth, got possessed by Parallax, the fear entity. His city, Coast City, had just been completely destroyed, so he was, shall we say, susceptible to its influence, but then he went crazy, see totally insane, killed a good few Lanterns, see basically all of them, destroyed the main power battery, yadda yadda. The Green Lantern Corps was gone. So Ganthet, the last remaining Guardian, gave the last remaining Lantern ring to Kyle Rayner.

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Green Lantern Vol. 3 #51, by Ron Marz & Darryl Banks

He wasn’t exactly ready for it at the beginning, but he managed to defeat Mongul, which is pretty damn good, right? Except, his ex-girlfriend, who he had confided in and just got back together with, got killed by Major Force and stuffed in a fridge. Yup, that’s where the phrase “Women In Refrigerators” comes from, Kyle Rayner’s girlfriend that died purely to make Kyle take his role as a Lantern seriously. It was a pretty embarrassing move on DC’s part, and one that Gail Simone will never let them forget.

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Green Lantern Vol. 3 #54, by Ron Marz & Darryl Banks

For a time then, Kyle was the only Green Lantern. To us now, and to readers at the time, this was a new thing, there had been an entire Corps for a long time, and even just on Earth there were frequently three separate Lanterns. But Kyle carried the name solo. He briefly joined the Titans, and joined the Justice League, taking the roles that all previous Lanterns before him had. He also set out to restart the Green Lantern Corps, and even took host to Ion, the parasitic entity of willpower, though he gave up the near-omnipotence of the powers to remain human.

Then his mother is killed. Yet another tragedy has befallen Kyle, and seemingly it is once more at the hands of Major Force. So, knowing that Major Force is immortal, Kyle rips his head off and throws it into space. As you do. This was during the events of Green Lantern: Rebirth, and Kyle then brings Hal Jordan’s body back to Earth, where it is quickly given back Hal’s spirit, and the original Lantern is resurrected. You’d think that at this point Kyle would lose some of the spotlight, I mean, Hal is back, Guy Gardner is a Lantern again, most of the Corps is back, so Kyle will disappear, right? Well, a little, but he is handed the highest honour by the Guardians. They give him the title of “Torchbearer”, as he was the only Lantern to still represent during their darkest time, and brought them back when they were needed most.

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Ion: The Torchbearer #1, by Ron Marz, Greg Tocchini and Jay Leisten

Once more, Kyle became Ion, taking the parasitic entity back, which Sinestro forcefully separates from Kyle at the beginning of the Sinestro Corps War, so that Kyle can play host to Parallax, like Hal Jordan did before him. Hal frees him from the influence, and together they defeat Sinestro. Shortly after, the long prophesised Blackest Night comes to pass, and Kyle is killed in action, whilst blowing up a power battery to stop hordes of dead Green Lanterns, reanimated as Black Lanterns on Oa. His love for fellow Lantern Soranik Natu led to him being resurrected quickly by a Star Sapphire, and he was able to rally with the multitude of other Lanterns and heroes on Earth to beat back Nekron’s Black Lanterns. Kyle also participates in the War of the Green Lanterns, taking a Blue Lantern ring in an effort to stop the rogue Guardian Krona.

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Green Lantern: New Guardians #3, by Tony Bedard & Tyler Kirkham

And then the New 52 happened. Rings of every colour seek out Kyle, along with an angry member of their Corps, and Kyle becomes the first person to simultaneously wield all seven primary Lantern rings. Admittedly, the rings disintegrate after a couple of minutes, but the team that he then heads up, containing a representative of each Corps, is then instrumental in stopping the Archangel Invictus from destroying the Vega system and the sole Orange Lantern Larfleeze. The team disbands, but Kyle begins to learn how to channel every colour of light, eventually becoming a White Lantern with the help of a new team, featuring big names like Carol Ferris of the Star Sapphires, Atrocitus of the Red Lanterns, and Larfleeze, using his powers to stop the Third Army on Zamaron, and aid in stopping the First Lantern Volthoom on Oa.

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The Omega Men #12, by Tom King & Barnaby Bagenda, cover by Trevor Hutchison

Most recently, Kyle has appeared in The Omega Men, aiding a rebel group in the Vega system against their tyrannical leader, but I don’t want to spoil a series that has finished so recently for you.

So, that’s his history, but what sets Kyle Rayner apart from any other Lantern, green or otherwise? For me, it’s twofold. First off, his creativity lets him do things with his ring that no other lantern can, such as create giant anime characters to do battle with his enemies, with the only limit to his powers being his imagination. Second, it’s his personality. Rayner will always, absolutely always stand up for what is right, and if an action seems wrong then he will question. Even if it is one of his friends doing it. And yet, he always believes in the goodness in people. When Hal Jordan was evil, Kyle knew that he could be relied on to give his life to save Earth. Kyle has a truly indomitable spirit, and, if you’ll excuse the cliché, his light shines brighter than basically any other in the universe.

~

James, The Wonder Witch

Character of the Week: Spider-Woman

Jessica Drew was injected with an experimental serum and gained powers. Or she was hit by a laser whilst in the womb, and gained powers. Or she was a spider that turned into a human

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New Avengers #15, Frank Cho

 

I think the second of those is technically the current origin story for her. It was a special laser, aight? The origin of her powers isn’t important, its what happened next. She was taken in by Hydra, and worked as their agent having been brainwashed. Obviously she broke free, but Hydra played an important part in her early life, and again later. However, in a twist of fate where her body died when her astral form was elsewhere (don’t ask), she lost her powers

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Spider-Woman: Origin #2, Jonathan Luna

Having spent some time as a P.I., she was recruited by Hydra to work within S.H.I.E.L.D. as a double agent, in return for which they would give her back her powers. Which, interestingly, Nick Fury encouraged. She fed Hydra false information for a time, until it was revealed that the Hyrda cell she was working for was actually made up of Skrulls. Then Secret Invasion happened. For a long time, it had seemed like Jessica was part of the New Avengers, but in reality it was the Skrull queen, Veranke in her place, and using Jessica’s image she lead a Skrull invasion. When the crisis was over, the real Jessica was found and returned to Earth from the Skrull ship she was being held in, along with dozens of other heroes

 

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Secret Invasion Promotional Poster

 

Understandably, Jessica wasn’t best pleased with the Skrulls after this. She joined S.W.O.R.D. (yep, that exists) to root out any Skrulls left over from the invasion force, as well as joining the New Avengers properly, despite an initial lack of trust from her teammates. From there, she’s had a pretty easy and uneventful run, being a part of multiple Avengers squads, and having a minor role in the Spider-Verse storyline. Nothing major has really happened in her life

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Spiderwoman: Agent of S.W.O.R.D., by Alex Maleev

 

Until now that is. Jessica decided that she wanted a child. She had been dating an unknown person, and had a scare, at which point she realised that she actually really wanted that baby. I’d hate to spoil who the father is for you all, as the storyline is being covered in the current Spider-Woman series, but its safe to say that this is a whole new twist on her character (though there is certainly some Skrull hating thrown in there, which is to be expected when they take over an alien maternity ward)

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Spider-Woman #1, by Javier Rodriguez

 

So who is Spider-Woman? Well, she can climb walls, she is super strong, so she’s basically just Spider-Man with different parts, right? Wrong. She also has control of pheromones, she can fire bio-electric blasts, and she is basically immune to most poisons, toxins and forms of radiation. But the powers don’t make her. It’s how she reacts to situations. She is passionate and emotional, but she doesn’t let that get in the way of her level headed realism, and she always knows how to correctly handle a situation. Unless it involves Skrulls, but hey, everyone has a weakness, right?

~

James, The Wonder Witch