The Black Beetle #1 (of 4)
Written & Directed by Francesco Francavilla
Lettering by Nate Piekos
Review by Joey Braccino
Remember Dick Tracy? The Shadow? Hard-boiled radio serials from the Golden Age of Radiowaves? Pulpy detective comics from the ‘30s and ‘40s? The film noir sensation that took America and the World by storm in the ‘40s and ‘50s? Gritty stories of anti-heroes with loose morals and looser trigger fingers clawing their way laterally through a cesspool of gangs and girls, sins and cigarettes? Who knows what lurks in the hearts of men? Francesco Francavilla knows! As writer and artist extraordinaire on Black Beetle, Francavilla recreates the mise en scéne of that classic mid-20th century American neo-romanticism that we colloquially call noir.
After last month’s preview issue #0, The Black Beetle gets a proper premier issue from Dark Horse. Francavilla sets his crime-thriller in crime-ridden Colt City, where the Mafia has a stronghold and bullets fly by day and by night. The story starts with our eponymous hero, The Black Beetle, dressed in black and sporting a gaggle of gadgetry, surveying a meeting between two top Mafioso bosses. Francavilla’s Black Beetle will probably garner comparisons to a Detective Comics era Batman, what with the black outfit, the gadgetry, the underground cavern/secret lair, and the normal-human-vigilante-with-a-dark-past-taking-on-the-sins-of-the-world schtick, but frankly, there ain’t nothing wrong with that. Francavilla is constructing a hard-boiled world grounded in reality and awash in blacks, reds, and guns. The cliffhanger at the end of the issue suggests an influx of mysterious vigilantes for our hero to do battle with, so keep your eyes peeled!
The real draw with any Francavilla book is the artwork. It’s stunning. It’s pulpy, yes, but it’s also innovative and vibrant in a post-modern sort of way. Think David Aja or Chris Samnee. Traditional in inspiration, but clearly experimental and fresh in execution. Francavilla’s artwork really stuns in the coloring department. Though the noir feel of the book calls for blacks and greys, Francavilla’s pages pop with bits of orange-red and light blue. The artwork alone is as engaging as the script itself, making for an overall exemplary debut issue.
Buy it. Buy buy buy. Old school meets new school in this first issue of The Black Beetle mini-series. And, most importantly, it’s freaking gorgeous.