Black Magic Woman is the story of the month for "Blue Beetle", one of DC's most critically acclaimed bubble books. This is a book that doesn't sell gangbusters. Normally, it sells just enough to continue to get published, but it does garner a lot of attention and critical praise. Or, at least it did. The original creative team is nowhere to be found, twenty-seven issues in. This issue begins a two-issue stint by Will Pfeiffer as he keeps the seat warm for incoming writer Matthew Sturges.
To say I had some hesitation going into this issue would be an understatement. I persevered through the writing switch that involved Rogers taking on the book solo. Honestly, in that time, this book has become my favorite of the monthly stack.
Pfeifer plays to the everyman vibe that was incorporated in this iteration of "Blue Beetle" since day one. Jaime Reyes -- the Blue Beetle -- is just a kid. He happens to have a strong moral fiber and an even stronger scarab that is battened to his spine, but he is still in high school. That works. What didn't quite work in this issue was Jaime's world. Traci Thirteen, Jaime's girlfriend, makes an appearance in this issue, which seems to be indicative of her taking on a more significant recurring position. If you haven't read the book before, you'd be at a bit of a loss regarding the rest of Jaime's world. Hector and Nadia, Jaime's aides-de-camp, his version of Oracle, make an appearance. Between Traci, Nadia and Hector, the bigger stars of Jaime's supporting cast -- his family and his friends Brenda and Paco -- get squeezed out.
The story itself is somewhat cliche, but does play to the themes of magic as science and science as magic that "Blue Beetle" has carried since the beginning. Jaime and Traci make a fine duo, but not necessarily because they were trying to be such.
Baldeon and Bird masterfully handle the characters without causing any disconnect to the previous artists who have rendered Jaime's adventures. They don't push the envelope creatively, but they do deliver very solid storytelling that paces the book well and delivers some candy for the readers' eyes.
This issue isn't going to be the most memorable issue of the series, but it also had some very big shoes to fill. Unfortunately, this issue didn't even wear socks, but a bad "Blue Beetle" story certainly outstrips some of the other "great" books out there in terms of enjoyability. For the ingrained "Blue Beetle" reader, this story holds up well, but by no means would this issue be the one to share as a recruiting tool for new readers. Sturges starts up in July with issue #29, hopefully that one will provide a decent ramp for new readers to wheel up on. Come on back when that one hits and I'll clue you in.