Wednesday, January 16, 2013


DARK HORSE COMICS – @DarkHorseComics

CARTOONIST/COVER: Francesco Francavilla
LETTERS: Nate Piekos (of Blambot)
PIN-UP: Mike Norton
28pp, Color, $3.99 U.S.

“No Way Out” (Part 1 of 4)

Francesco Francavilla is an Italian comic book artist. Francavilla won the 2012 Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards trophy for “Best Cover Artist” for providing cover art on such titles as Black Panther (Marvel Comics); Lone Ranger (Dynamite Entertainment), and Archie Meets Kiss (Archie Comics), among others.

The Black Beetle is a comic book character created by Francavilla. The character has been appearing on Francavilla’s blog and in the anthology series, Dark Horse Presents. The Black Beetle has more than a passing resemblance to DC Comics’ Batman because they share conceptual DNA.

The Black Beetle blends the aesthetics of pulp fiction, mystery, noir, and the superhero. The character is not only part superhero, but he is also a costumed vigilante and weird detective in the vein of such classic pulp heroes as The Shadow and The Spider, with some of Zorro and Sherlock Holmes thrown into the mix. Black Beetle is a super-heroic sleuth, and his base of operation is Colt City, a classic pulp and noir-type urban landscape. Black Beetle debuts in his own comic book series, entitled The Black Beetle.

As The Black Beetle #1 begins, the Black Beetle is about to make himself an uninvited guest in a meeting of two crime families, the Galazzos and the Fierros. In this summit, which will determine the future of Colt City’s criminal empire, Black Beetle sees an opportunity to take out two major crime bosses, Don Pasquale Galazzo and Joe Fierro. When the hero makes his move at Spencer’s, the neutral sight where this crime conference is being held, he discovers that he is not the only hunter.

The Black Beetle: No Way Out #1 is clean comic book storytelling. This is classic, two-fisted, masked-man comic book action. It’s gritty and pure, lacking in pretension or the goal to be the soap opera version of character drama that most superhero comic books offer. This is the kind of pulpy mayhem that first made me fall in love with comic books.

I don’t think that I can adequately describe just how gorgeous Francesco Francavilla’s art is. Some of the pages use a standard comic book page layout, but most of them are more imaginative and inventive. Some pages resemble movie posters and movie theatre lobby cards; others are similar to narrative paintings. Some pages are designed as splash pages, but with details and assorted art embedded on them.

The Black Beetle is pure pop comics. Between the new Stars Wars series and The Black Beetle, Dark Horse Comics is doing their own version of Marvel NOW and The New 52. Dark Horse is just doing a better job of making classic seem so fresh.


Reviewed by Leroy Douresseaux

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