In our previous installment we saw how Ted Kord had found some mysterious place that had a computer with secret details on the Justice League. This includes secret identities and weaknesses. In flash we saw how the second Blue Beetle started the investigation that led to him finding this place but with four issues/chapters left to go we don’t know yet how he found it.
What we do know is that the Justice League is basically dumping on Ted. Someone has been using Bruce Wayne’s company to steal from Kord Omniversal, Ted’s company. Barbara has to be talked into helping him find this much. Then someone attacks one of Ted’s warehouses. They can find no clue as to how it happened, which should worry them since they just had a murder investigation with the same lack of ability for the worlds greatest heroes, detectives, and scanners to find a single clue and that should concern them since apparently they learned nothing. But it’s only Blue Beetle so they just walk off annoyed, even after learning that what was stolen was a few pounds of Kryptonite scheduled for disposal. Meanwhile Bruce is still working on Brother Eye and his attitude is leading me to believe Bruce himself is stealing from Ted to fund his paranoia-fueled project against his fellow heroes thanks to the whole mindwipe thing from that same murder case. Blue Beetle is attacked by the Madmen but he’s saved by the only friend he has in the world, Booster Gold. That’s where we stand, so let’s see how we continue to fall.
Countdown To Infinite Crisis
DC Comics (March, 2005)
ComiXology has the trade collection, free for some reason, on their site so if you have a comiXology or Amazon account you can read along. This is the version I’ll be using.
WRITERS: Geoff Johns, Greg Rucka, and Judd Winick
PENCILERS: Ed Benes, Phil Jimenez, Rags Morales, Ivan Reis, and Jesus Siaz
INKERS: Michael Bair, Ed Benes, Marc Campos, Andy Lanning, and Jimmy Palmioti
COVER ART: Jim Lee and Alex Ross
Unfortunately this version lacks credits and comiXology rarely credits colorists and letterers. That’s disappointing as I consider them part of the art team and the art in this miniseries is quite good.
We open in the present as Blue Beetle finds that they even know who Captain Marvel is, but given how poorly Billy Batson sometimes handles his secret identity it’s not really that surprising. Cut back to the past as Beetle tries to track down who paid the Madmen. Since so many use online payments he’s sure he can find it. Meanwhile, Booster sees the scarab, the one used by Dan Garrett in his retconned origin. It seems the best time to discuss the Blue Beetle legacy but there’s something more important in this scene first. Booster isn’t an idiot. As Ted notes in his narration people think Booster is a joke, that uses his knowledge of the past to “avoid the big battles”, but he notes that Booster went right in to fight Doomsday knowing what the creature was fated to do to Superman, which should be proof enough that when he friends need him Booster steps up and acts the hero instead of the fool. He even goes takes over the hacking because despite not being the most tech savvy computing in the 25th century is more normal than in the early 21st, which is why he’s in front of the computer when it explodes.
Before going into that, since the scarab is brought up here, let’s talk a bit about the scarab, Dan, Ted, and their successor, Jaime Reyes. (Remember that the “J” is pronounced like an “H” so his name sounds like “Hi may” and not “Jay me”. I think it’s Spanish given Jaime’s Latino.) In the original origin Dan received superhuman strength thanks to a special vitamin that was later dropped. He also had a special armor that the radio dramas refer to as chain mail but according to Wikipedia (question the source) it was some kind of cellulose material, whatever that means. (It was the Golden Age. Science used to work that way.) Either version is referred to as being “light as silk but stronger than steel”, which was actually part of the radio show’s intro. He also used a ring that could fire energy rays which in the radio show he also used to let the crooks know it was time to soil their underwear.
This origin was dropped when a new publisher took over the character. Now Dan was an archaeologist who gained his powers from a magic scarab. This scarab didn’t work for Ted and we’ll get into Jaime’s retcon in a moment. Dan gave his life helping Ted stop his evil uncle from building an android army. Ted was one of Dan’s students and he decided to take up the mantle to honor his friend and his sacrifice. However the scarab wouldn’t work for him so he used his own inventor skills to create a series of gadgets similar to the original Dan Garret origin, though Dan had a guy building his gear for him, Dr. Franz. This connects Ted Kord to Dan Garrett (one “t” for the rookie cop, two “t”s for the archaeologist because reasons) and forms a legacy.
Jaime was a good character and had a good story before the New 52 screwed things like telling his family almost immediately he’s the new Blue Beetle and gaining their support. During later events and it’s a long story Jaime comes into possession of the scarab, which does work for him. However, DC decided to retcon it further in that it wasn’t a magic totem but an alien device created by an invasion force called the Reach. We’ll see in a moment Ted brought it to the Rock Of Eternity for safe keeping during this miniseries but it would later get blasted back to the regular reality, which is where Jaime just stumbled on it and bonded with it, becoming the third Blue Beetle. Outside of Booster trying to get it back nothing about Jaime ties back to Dan or Ted, although it would have Jaime at least trying to connect to the legacy as well as his predecessors, even teaming up with them via time travel and fighting some of Ted’s old foes. He didn’t even know them before this, so as a passing of the torch this really kind of fails and it’s a shame, though I give the writers credit for working around it and linking him after the fact until the New 52 screwed with that as well. It could also be another example of the writers’ dislike for Ted since they didn’t even tie Jaime to him, like have him an intern at Kord Omniversal who worked as his gopher or something, or even as a member of Checkmate (more on that tomorrow) who Ted reached and inspired just as he found the scarab. Just some tie to Ted. Also why are Dan and Jaime able to activate the scarab but Ted can’t? Because everyone hates Ted, even evil devices turned into a superhero. (Yes, I know it’s explained later, but that doesn’t violate the theme of this story.)
Back to the story: Ted gets Booster out and somehow the firemen and ambulance are already there. How they got there so fast I couldn’t tell you. Ted (who I guess doesn’t have a secret identity since he’s right there unmasked and nobody comments on why the head of a struggling company is standing there in a Blue Beetle costume–or maybe they don’t want to know since there’s a fire to put out) tells the fire chief (I’m assuming) that he saw a “lighting bolt” (though it looked more like a big laser) hit the computer. He wants to ride with the ambulance until he sees the scarab glowing. Coincidence or is the universe itself trashing Ted by taking out the only friend he has left. At any rate he decides to go visit “the kid”, meaning Captain Marvel.
Not that the trip to Fawcett City is of any help. If anything it adds nothing to the story. The scarab brings him to the Rock Of Eternity, where the wizard Shazam appears to have been waiting for you. (Going over Shazam/Captain Marvel’s story is way too long for this article.) The Wizard tells him that Captain Marvel is too busy, but doesn’t say with what. We do see an image via the scarab that he’s busy fighting the Spectre or something along with the Demon and some other character, then an image of Lex Luthor, which makes no sense to Ted and is surprised enough to drop the scarab. The Wizard basically tells him “don’t worry about it” and sends him away with out the scarab, after noting that the lightning wasn’t magic, just that it claimed to be. I don’t recall it talking but we know the scarab isn’t magic but alien tech–which could be mistaken for magic but it raises a few other questions. After Ted is warped away because this is still trash Ted Kord week a strange voice gets the Wizard to admit Ted isn’t the only one in the room with questions.
Back in the present Ted is still calling himself a bug because even Ted hates Ted, but he’s also a man of science. Even a picture of Wonder Woman is a calming sensation because this is the warrior of truth and love, not Lady Kratos of the New 52. We then jump to the past again as Ted appears back in the city. We learn that what happens at the start of the chapter was eight hours ago. Blue Beetle calls for the Bug, his flying base and mobile lab, which explodes on him because that’s the kind of week he’s having. Ted survives yet another attempt on his life and heads to the Watchtower. Surprisingly they don’t just toss him out of the airlock but Wonder Woman attends to his wounds. This may be the last bit of decent treatment our hero ever gets, speaking to Diana’s awesomeness and why I miss the real incarnation of Wonder Woman as DiDio and his pals keeps trying to push her back to Lady Kratos. Beetle notes in his narration that everyone loves Wonder Woman, even Batman. Not romantically mind you (though you could find a few that do) but as you would a close friend or someone you admire. Men admire Wonder Woman for more than her cleavage. Not that certain people out there who can’t see past the surface looks of a medium they probably don’t read would know but that’s another argument.
Diana even asks about the investigation and shows concern about the Kryptonite theft. She even believes Ted that the investigation has merit and wants to be kept updated though she has to return to the embassy and I don’t know enough about what Diana was up to back then to really follow that. I know just enough about this period of DC to know that it was going in a direction I didn’t want to follow and outside of the Rebirth it only got worse. The point is for once someone besides Booster Gold is being nice to Ted. Well here comes Martian Manhunter to spoil the party. He joins the people thinking he’s on a wild goose chase and I’m starting to understand why they didn’t realize Sue wasn’t killed by Doctor Light. As Ted points out, someone tried to kill him twice, which the Martian Manhunter, a detective I remind you, waves off as people always trying to kill them. The Madmen are killers for hire, someone used Waynetech to steal his company’s money not to mention the fact that a hundred pounds of Kryptonite nobody should have known about was stolen and is out there somewhere. So far only Booster and Diana seem to care. J’onn just wants to kick him out of the Watchtower and that’s not me reading into things. It’s right in the punctuation: “you’ll be leaving?” is a question while “you’ll be leaving.” is a statement of get the hell out. Guess which one J’onn used and I remind you the running theme of this story is “everyone hates Ted Kord”. J’onn gets a break from being near icky Teddy when the Rann-Thanagar War storyline pushes its way in because this is when Eventitis was hitting it’s own pandemic level at DC Comics.
Ted just uses the teleporter to go back to what’s left of his house and stews a bit since he’s lost pretty much everything. Even the lenses of his mask get broken and he’s more broke than they are. He decides to at least check on Booster in the hospital, apparently having another Bug to fly there since we just saw it get blown up earlier in this various chapter. I’m sure it’s not a continuity error. They’re too good for that. Ted also shows Booster something he found on the broken lens, a piece of monitoring equipment that used to belong to Skeets, the robot later retconned into an alien and don’t get me started but I guess still or back to being a robot at this point so more continuity questions raised. Skeets was also Booster’s sidekick and next to Ted best friend. He’s not happy that someone basically captured Skeets and used him for parts. In one actually accurate continuity moment we did see one of the Madmen messing with the eyes of Blue Beetle’s mask during the attack so congratulations there. This means they can use this to track Skeets’ parts back to him and possibly the villain behind all this. Booster’s ready to help because he’s sick of watching friends die, mentioning Sue Dibney, Ice, his sister, and now Skeets and not wanting to add Ted to the list. Trying to get out of the bed just causes Booster to pass out, so Ted calls for the nurse…who seems to be blaming Ted for letting him get up! For crying out loud, comic, you’re really pouring on this Ted-bashing aren’t you? I’m surprised Wonder Woman was on his side. Ted tells the nurse to tell Booster when he wakes up that none of this was Booster’s fault and that Beetle never had a better friend. This just makes the treatment Ted’s getting in this book worse because he’s shown to be a good person and thinks of others. So naturally he has to die.
Tomorrow we hit the finale, where Ted Kord does die as we read the final chapter of Countdown To Blue Beetle’s Death or Everybody Hates Ted.