The Black Beetle, Vol. 1: No Way Out by Francesco Francavilla
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Evildoers in Colt City beware! The city is under the protection of... The Black Beetle!
I got this from Netgalley. Thank you, Netgalley!
Without giving too much away, The Black Beetle is a throwback to the pulps of the 1930's and 40's. While visually he looks like a mix of Batman and Blue Beetle, The Black Beetle most resembles Norvell Page's The Spider in my mind. Or early Batman stories where he gunned people down fairly regularly. He goes out of the frying pan and into the fire so many times his flesh should be a charred mess.
The plot was actually my least favorite part of the book but it was still engaging, an action-packed detective tale. When The Black Beetle finally catches up with Labyrinto, it does not disappoint. The zero issue, the tale of a bunch of Nazi agents looking for a lizard amulet, did a great job of introducing the Black Beetle while not revealing too much.
The art was the star of the show for me. It reminded me of 1990's Mike Mignola, Guy Davis' Sandman Mystery Theatre run, and also Tim Sale's art on Batman: The Long Halloween. Francavilla used shadows very well and his art and panel arrangement gave The Black Beetle kind of a timeless quality, like it was something great I was remembering from years ago rather than something I was reading for the first time. You can see the love Francavilla has for the comic medium and for his Black Beetle character in every panel.
The Black Beetle himself has a very simple but iconic look, like some member of the Justice Society introduced in the 1940's that you forgot about. If a two-gun gadget-driven Batman type hero is your thing, give The Black Beetle a try. He's influenced by Batman, The Spider, and other masked mystery men without being a generic homage. 4.5 stars. I'm ready for more Black Beetle!
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