Welcome to the final installment of Everyone Hated Ted Kord. In part one we saw someone trying to dismantle his company and try to kill him, which was immediately ignored by his colleagues because he’s Ted Kord so they couldn’t care less even though Bruce Wayne’s company was being used to do it and a whole lot of Kryptonite was stolen from his warehouse to be properly destroyed while leaving no evidence of how they did it, not unlike that time someone they actually cared about was murdered. But it’s Ted Kord so they couldn’t care less. Only Booster Gold was on his side so naturally in part two he was taken out of action because heaven forbid the only person worried about Blue Beetle who doesn’t want him dead be there to help him. Basically it sucks to be Ted Kord in this story.
Now we head into the final issue, as Blue Beetle goes to find out who is trying to ruin him because he’s the only one who cares who isn’t in a hospital bed right now. This whole story has been about dumping on the second Blue Beetle and while it has done a good job of making us the reader care about him it’s at the expense of everyone except Booster and maybe Wonder Woman (I can’t prove she wasn’t just being nice to him but probably didn’t care either given how this story has gone) looking like a bunch of unfeeling jerks…lest you think DiDio’s Darker DC turning the heroes into someone the Avengers are looking at as a dysfunctional team was something that started in the New 52. They just made it worse.
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
This one doesn’t start at the computer but remains in the events leading up before ending the flashback, a reverse of how the story has gone in the previous chapters and it works because there’s no more flashback to tell. We’re told Oracle doesn’t want to help anymore, having called in all her favor to help Ted by sending in people who couldn’t care less that he was robbed with zero indication as to how (I remind you this happened in the investigation of Sue’s death so you’d think they’d be concerned but it’s only Blue Beetle so they just got pissed off). He called the Watchtower for some reason and got Batman, who I have yet to be convinced wasn’t at least aware of Waynetech being used to rob Kord Omniversal, but he put him on hold, so Beetle just hung up figuring Bats would just do that anyway. I’m 100% certain he’s right, and just left him on hold to wait for it to automatically hang up just to throw a few more middle fingers his way.
Following Skeets’ signal Blue Beetle takes the Bug to Swiss Alps when he comes upon one of a dozen hidden castles in the Alps. It’s one of the less popular villain lairs but still used pretty often. He sneaks in, leading to where we saw him at the start of chapter 1 and to the present, where he’s in front of the computer. Blue Beetle is worried because not only does he not know how they got this information but why they want it. However, what really ticks him off is that Booster’s dead sister Michelle is listed simply under “associates” like she doesn’t mean anything. That’s been his role in this story. So he decides to look up his own file.
Listing J’onn as an associate after the way he treated him last issue/chapter is insulting thought they may not have known Oracle had just cut him off as well. I’m not sure about Guy or Fire but I know the Justice League is wrongly listed as they don’t seem to want to associate with him either. If you’re annoyed that I keep bringing this up, just wait for my final wrap-up of this story in a few moments. Blue Beetle also sees that they know he’s here, so you can guess this isn’t going to end well, especially if you know Ted’s fate already. That’s when the door opens and standing this applauding is Maxwell Lord and a bunch of goons. And now we come to the best part of the story…relatively speaking.
Max tells him to drop the BB Gun, a special non-lethal gun Blue Beetle carries and Beetle tells him “According to your computer I’m a dead man already. Doesn’t seem like I have much of anything left to lose.” And he doesn’t. Look at Beetle’s situation. His only friend is in the hospital. The Justice League have abandoned him, Oracle has washed her hands of him, and he’s surrounded by a guy he thought he could trust and his army of goons, part of a metahuman watching organization called Checkmate, usually a US government bureau but being based in the Swiss Alps it looks like a retcon is coming on, which considering Geoff Johns is one of the writers should surprise nobody. Max sends his soldiers out and then uses his own metahuman ability to nudge people into doing what he wants, a mild form of mind control he was shown to possess which causes him to have nose bleeds, to make Beetle drop the gun. He then says he’s more powerful than that and could even control Superman, a bit of foreshadowing to come later on.
Then he does something surprising for this story. When Beetle admits he’s a second stringer but the first stringers will eventually come for him, Max actually compliments him. Given recent events that’s the first time this week he’s gotten one, and it’s from the fallen hero turned villain. Max was sure either Ted or Batman would find him but his money was on Ted. Then Max goes into his big speech about how many metahumans there are (roughly 1.3 million, counting people who can only make balloon animals do the Electric Slide or whatever) but he’s only worried about one of the 5% with decent superpowers, or “gods” because treating Superman as a god never gets old, annoying, or makes me want to scream in anger. No, wait, it makes me do all three and more, but that’s a whole other discussion and it only bothers me when the writers do it. Beetle points out Max is a metahuman but Max says he can be trusted. He will soon prove he cannot and Beetle calls him out on it, that Max is just greedy and compares him to a “used car salesman”. When Ted and Booster met with Max earlier in the story he even said it was Max that inspired some of their get rich quick schemes. You tell him, Ted!
Max starts telling Blue Beetle that he has been looking for the opening to invite him to join Max’s version of Checkmate when suddenly the computer goes down and all of the files deleted, which he immediately knows Ted is responsible for. Beetle takes the opportunity to punch him and attempt to make his escape to warn everybody–as if they’d bother listening to him at this point–despite knowing he might not have a chance. Yes, I really do believe that according to this story everyone has that low an opinion of him, but this also shows that Blue Beetle doesn’t give up so easily. He does manage to do well against the guards but a woman in a black jumpsuit nearly beats the crap out of him. He manages to escape her but runs into Max and some dude that just has “blank” as his name. With a command from Max the blank is transformed into this reality’s version of an OMAC, a one-man superwarrior created by Jack Kirby and re-imagined into a weapon of Brother Eye’s. It’s this re-imagining that is now the default of OMACs in other continuities and DC-related media, closer to a Terminator army than Kirby’s vision of the ultimate defender of good. This is one of the reasons I don’t care for re-imaginings, because they can potentially replace the original concept.
OMAC beats the tar out of Blue Beetle and locks him away. In the cell Max tries again to recruit Ted. However, as he explains the OMAC, the “Brother One” satellite that will become Brother Eye in a later event, and how he wants to take the course of human events away from the superhumans and into the hands of “normal humans” like himself and Ted (Max somehow keeps forgetting he’s a metahuman who we will see CAN control Superman), and as he even praises Ted for never giving up, there’s only one thing going through Ted’s mind.
My name is Ted Kord. I am the second man to call himself the Blue Beetle. I tell myself there will be a third. And I hope whoever he or she may be, they do better at it than I have.
There is both good and bad in this sentence. As he knows he’s about to die he thinks about how the name will continue on, the legacy will not die, and although Jaime had to push himself into the legacy rather than a passing of the torch like Dan to Ted. He’s a hero to the end. However, now even Ted is dumping on Ted. Of course he could take the offer. Look at his situation right now. The Justice League abandoned him. Max is responsible for the attack on Booster, which was probably a mistake to mention. Booster Gold is just Michael Carter, a dude with advance technology. He’s not a god and the two work very well together. But the League treat him like dirt, there’s rumors surrounding Doctor Light, he knows what happens with tech like the Atom’s size-changing powers ending up in the hands of evil or insane people like Jean Loring, and he really has no reason to protect these people. Checkmate would give him access to new tech to play with and advance. He could get back at Batman for possibly robbing his company and bankrupting it. He could show them that he has merit. This is not the way Max tries to convince him to join up, instead just ranting about how terrible metahumans are, like they’re the X-Men and he’s one of the many anti-mutant extremists that attack them from time to time. The thing is had he sold it right joining retconned Checkmate might have actually been appealing to him. However, while this has been the “dump on Ted Kord” story it’s also a story that showed that when the chips are down…
…Ted “Blue Beetle” Kord is a superhero. Superheroes stand up for what’s right no matter the cost. The cost here being that Max shoots him in the head, giving us a beautiful view of the hero of the story having his brains forced out of his skull. Now there’s the hope and optimism I expect from DC Comics. At least nowadays, since DiDio’s Darker DC is where hope, optimism, and the aspirational iconic hero go to die. Literally. Max calls it a waste, and given this story probably Ted as well, and then orders the start of Project: OMAC, ending the miniseries with our hero dead and the fallen angel turned devil victorious.
In preparation for this final chapter I re-watched Atop The Fourth Wall‘s multi-part tribute to all the Blue Beetles, especially Ted’s. It shows just how good a hero Ted Kord was under a writer who didn’t treat him as a joke. He’s a self-made billionaire and inventor who wanted to honor his mentor and friend but couldn’t get his superpowers because the Scarab keeps getting destroyed. (Although we’re told after it was found in one piece again that it wouldn’t work for him anyway because again this is how this story works.) So he built his own costume, weapons, and even a flying headquarters and continued on anyway, living up to the mantle of the Blue Beetle. He may be a bit jokey at times, using witty banter to distract his enemies while also keeping himself from being bogged down by the weight of a superhero’s life and the legacy he’s continuing. However, he’s a self-made man, a superhero by his own hand, and one who cares very much for his friends and the safety of others. He’s a superhero in every sense of the word.
That’s why this story bugs me so much…no pun intended. The story makes you feel sorry for Ted and does so brilliantly. We see him act like a superhero, never staying down no matter what’s against him…and not overcoming. Even if he managed to escape to warn everybody and was just held up somehow until the events of The OMAC Project started playing out, or even if he died a hero warning everyone about the OMACs. Imagine if the Scarab ended up in Jaime’s hands (or rather on his spine) as it does in Infinite Crisis but in this story, as Max and Brother Eye started their conquest. Ted manages to get a signal for help and Jaime responds, rescuing Ted. Together they try to escape but the odds are against him. Between martial arts lady and a horde of OMACs they can’t escape. Ted manages to give Jaime the information they need to stop Brother Eye, or at least be fully aware of what they’re dealing with. However, to cover his escape Ted sacrifices himself in a huge fight, going down not assassinated like a punk (though a defiant one) but in a blaze of glory. But before Jaime leaves they have a moment to talk. Ted shows approval for Jaime and even says he might make a good Blue Beetle, to look up the career of Dan Garrett but downplaying his own. Jaime responds that he knows about Ted’s time and that he was sort of inspirational when he ended up with the Scarab on his spine and considers himself Ted’s successor, not Dan’s. This would have been a great way to pass the mantle on while allowing Ted to go down like a hero should, not just as an act of defiance but saving the world and the new Blue Beetle.
This is not what we get. Instead we get Oracle being annoyed by him. Batman dismissing (and possibly robbing) him, Martian Manhunter getting rid of him, Wonder Woman possibly pandering to him, Superman barely acknowledging him, and the rest of the Justice League outright hating him. We even get Ted being down on himself as a failure and a “bug” before being shot in the dead, beaten down and wiped out without a single thought, with only one person to mourn his passing if he ever finds out about it.
That’s where Countdown To Infinite Crisis fails. outside of the fact that this leads into events leading up to Infinite Crisis like The OMAC Project rather the actual Infinite Crisis. This is a story of a hero failing, of being mistreated by heroes who for decades have been symbols of hope, freedom, and justice, the people we look up to. Ted Kord was defiant to the last, a great example of what it means to be a hero, and he suffers for it. It may make for a good story but this isn’t the DC universe I know and love. It’s not what drew a bullied, socially awkward, lonely kid to superheroes as a genre. For fans of Ted Kord it’s not what made them want to read tales of the Blue Beetle. He does not overcome for the good of all, he’s merely defiant against a great evil, but many a villain have failed to recruit the hero to their side and later lose either completely or partially due to the hero’s actions, even if through a noble sacrifice. That’s a hero story.
I don’t know why they decided to ditch Ted Kord to create a new Blue Beetle outside of increasing their diversity line-up (meaning learning nothing from the last time they tried it this way instead of creating new heroes and legacies). They got lucky that eventually Jaime Reyes ended up with writers who managed to make him and his supporting cast so good before the New 52 and editorial overlords ruined everything that allowed him to make the name his own. Jaime also got lucky in that he started showing up in other DC shows. Dan Garret had a radio drama in his original incarnation and that was it. Ted only showed up in one cartoon as the Blue Beetle (where he took over Dan’s place in the battle with the androids since they didn’t use the revamped Dan Garrett) and just as himself in a couple of others, plus the odd cameo or mention in a video game. I hear they somehow brought him back to the New 52 as Jaime’s mentor but having never been a hero himself, more like a fanboy with the ability to help Jaime out. Steve Ditko created a legacy character who managed to stand for decades and was the inspiration for Owlman in the Watchmen miniseries when Alan Moore wasn’t allowed to screw around with the Charlton acquisitions, and yet a few of DC’s actual writers managed so screw Ted Kord over anyway. The fact that they did so with such a well written and well drawn story only pours salt into the would. As a story Countdown To Infinite Crisis is very good.
As a send-off to a character they bought from elsewhere and managed to do mostly great things with for decades however, it’s an insult. This is why I say a quality story can still be a crap continuation.