Thursday, January 17, 2013

Review - The Black Beetle #1

Sometimes you need your stories hard-boiled like your eggs. Some people like their eggs that way, but just about everyone likes their stories that way. Those hard-boiled stories like The Black Beetle #1 from Dark Horse Comics, the first of four issues.

The issue is written and directed by Francesco Francavilla.

The Black Beetle is determined to bring down two of the biggest crime bosses in Colt City in Don Pasquale Galazzo and Joe Fierro. His mission is going according to plan: proper surveillance, the right equipment and most of the mafia families in one place at once. That is, until, the entire gathering is blown to smithereens by an unknown bomber. An eighteen story fall and a visit to the Fort later, the Black Beetle finds out there's more at play than just someone being angry at the mob families.

The Black Beetle is an homage to characters of the past. Characters steeped in a created world full of crime where the police can't be relied on to get the job done. Francavilla has successfully captured that atmosphere in The Black Beetle #1, crafting a world on the brink of chaos. When mob families are being killed in massive explosions, there's something greater at play and it's up to the Black Beetle to find out what it is.

As a character, the Black Beetle will likely remind readers of Dick Tracy mixed with Batman. He uses a similar bag of tricks as the latter, with the desire for upholding the law of the former. Considering the bulk of the issue is all narration on the part of the Black Beetle, the fact that you still get a good sense of his character is impressive. He gets results and knows what he's doing, both traits that will make the new villain in Colt City work for their anarchy.

Francavilla is on the art duty as well and he uses some really creative page layouts. The majority of them don't rely on the standard box format, using an array of designs to more fully immerse the reader in the world of the Black Beetle. Beyond the panel layouts, Francavilla has injected tons of pulp in the art through the stark lines and myriad of muted colors. The art just comes together very well and looks gorgeous.

There's always going to be a market and niche for the old school comics, back before digital comics and character deaths/revivals. Francavilla offers an extremely fresh take on the noir comic, making the Black Beetle more than just a detective with an axe to grind for whatever reason. The Black Beetle #1 is such a fun throwback comic that shows a lot of commitment on the part of Francavilla, relying entirely on a strong story, inventive lead character and vibrant artwork.

The Black Beetle #1 is in stores now with interiors below.










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