Episode title: The Rise of the Blue beetle
Original air date: November 14, 2008
This is the first episode of the series, and as such it is tasked with establishing a relationship with the viewer. Too often series try to throw an excessive number of elements into a pilot, and I am impressed with the restraint of the creators in avoiding that trap with this one. I am, however, a bit puzzled by the direction this episode went. The teaser consists of Green Arrow and Batman in an elaborate trap constructed by the Clock King. Of course the good guys escape, but the significant moment of the sequence occurs when Batman says via voice over that even though the heroes bicker with one another, the truth is that they make each other better (paraphrased). This statement does establish the central theme of all the adventures that will follow over the three season’s of the series.
In the primary story of the episode we meet a teenager who is enamored with Batman, that is later revealed to be Jaime Reyes, the third Blue Beetle. Bats asks Beetle to assist him on a mission to stop a comet from hitting a satellite, but reveals to the audience that the true purpose of the mission is to evaluate Jaime’s adeptness as a hero. They get sucked into a wormhole, and arrive in the middle of a conflict on a distant planet. Intergalactic pirate Kanjar-Ro is using members of the diminutive Gibble aliens as fuel for his raiding ships, and the Gibbles believe Jaime to be their savior (while referring to Batman as his sidekick to humorous effect). Jaime undergoes pretty typical three step character growth, going from insecure, to over confident before ultimately becoming truly heroic and uniting the Gibbles to repel Ro.
This story is a pretty straightforward allegory for the old parable about the difference between giving a man a fish, and teaching him how to fish and whatnot, and as a result I didn’t find it to have much story depth (even for a 22 minute cartoon). I also thought it was odd to launch a series dedicated to the classic roots of DC’s properties with a cosmic adventure featuring a more recently created guest hero (Jaime Reyes’ incarnation of the Blue Beetle first appeared in March, 2006). This stood in stark juxtaposition to the teaser featuring old school guys like Green Arrow and Clock King with Bats in an Adam West style death trap. I truly believe that one familiar with this show would have been more satisfied with Ted Kord, and it would also have been more interesting to me to see a potential rivalry between Ted and Bruce as characters that are so similar on the surface, yet so different at their core. Kord’s character also has infinitely more comedic potential than Reyes, which can likely be attested to by anyone familiar with Keith Giffen’s run on Justice League International. Overall, I suppose the episode was a success despite being less than thrilling, because it wasn’t boring and it did pique my interest enough to motivate me to return for more episodes. Also, in the interest of fairness, it is worth noting that it is impossible for me to view this in present day without the knowledge that better stories are to come.
Featured Characters: Green Arrow (Weisenberger and Papp, 1941), Clock King (Bill Finger, 1947), Blue Beetle 3 (Keith Giffen, 2006)
To learn more about Green Arrow listen to Heroes and Villains ep. 9