The Black Beetle: No Way Out #3 (of 4)
Written & Directed by Francesco Francavilla
Review by Joey Braccino
Now this is genre-fiction done right in the 21st Century. Black Beetle: No Way Out might be straight up hard-boiled detective pulp, but Francesco Francavilla lends the book a distinctly modern feel through his innovative artwork and distinctive color palette.
Our eponymous hero spends most of the issue masquerading among the seediest of the seedy in a smokey jazz club in Colt City before engaging in some brutal fisticuffs with a trio of brooding, brutish zoot-suit-wearing mafiosos. The mystery of Labyrinto, the maze-costumed vigilante plaguing Black Beetle’s night-life, is interrupted (intermezzo-d, in fact) by a horror-inspired sequence, and our hero uncovers some shocking evidence that suggests a larger conspiracy at play.
Now, that plot certainly appears fun and engaging, and it most definitely is, but dude, I’d read this book if it was about a couch covered in cappuccino if Francesco Francavilla was illustrating it. Of course, Francavilla is illustrating the adventures of Black Beetle here, and his pulp-throwback aesthetic is perfectly suited to the mood and tone of the genre-fiction at play here. But while most modern noir-comics resort to a “traditional” grayscale color palette, Francavilla holds on to his blood oranges and sharp reds, imbuing the book with a heat and energy rarely seen in the kind of gritty detective comics vein that Black Beetle occupies. Francavilla even includes some rich purples and aqua blues in this book, essentially breaking all the rules regarding the crime aesthetic.
Check this book out. The story is fascinating and the artwork is, without hyperbole, some of the best in any comic on the stands today. The opening sequence in particular—the aforementioned jazz club—is particularly stunning. Francavilla pulls a card straight out of V for Vendetta by interlacing his panels with staffs of music notes, but where as David Lloyd used classical melodies, Francavilla gives us straight blues. Black Beetle is a brand new game dressed in classic clothes, ladies and gents, and it’s most definitely worth a look.