Francesco Francavilla “The Black Beetle volume 1: No Way Out” (Dark Horse Comics, 2013)
Here’s a true story: After I finished reading No Way Out, I did some googling to find out more about the character. That was when I learned that the Black Beetle was not an authentic pulp hero. That’s how good the feel is on this book.
Set in a vague era recalling the 20s – 40s in Colt City, No Way Out has the Black Beetle fighting the mob and the hired man Labyrinto. The Beetle seems to be similar to other masked heroes from that time – the Spider, the Shadow, the Avenger, etc etc… At this point Francavilla is trying to make a piece that feels authentic to the time, rather than having his hero stick out as some sort of distinct creation.
But while the story is good pulpy fun, the art is where The Black Beetle really separates itself from the pack. Francavilla’s full page spreads remind me of 1960s European cinema illustrations: bold vivid imagery that evokes salacious promises of blood and sin. The smaller panel work is equally rewarding, with intriguing uses of thematic color and dramatic action sequences.
Of the nascent pulp revival that seems to be under way, The Black Beetle is the strongest title yet. I would highly recommend it for fans of two fisted action and stunning art design.