Previewed by C.J. Bunce
If you felt like you were left wanting after reading Before Watchmen last year, or if you wondered why Dynamite Comics and Image Comics were the only comic book publishers offering up good noir stories, then Eisner Award winning artist and writer Francesco Francavilla has your answer. Dark Horse Comics is releasing his new four-issue pulp noir series The Black Beetle: No Way Out beginning January 16, 2013. You’ll swear you’ve seen the Black Beetle before, maybe in old 1950s or 1960s pulps. Not so. Black Beetle is entirely a new noir original creation of Francavilla. But he looks like he belongs in Dynamite Comics’s Masks series along with the Green Hornet and the Shadow.
The Black Beetle continues what must be one of the brilliant assets of Mike Richardson’s Dark Horse Comics: Using its anthology series Dark Horse Presents to build interest in new stories and characters, and then spin them off into their own standalone series. We’ve reviewed several titles that have taken this approach in the past year here at borg.com. In case you missed it, in December 2012 Dark Horse released Francavilla’s original Dark Horse Presents stories as The Black Beetle: Night Shift, a one-shot/Issue #0, which also included some bonus content not previously published. Issue #0 was a surprise success and hard to get your hands on, so don’t make the mistake of missing out on No Way Out when it hits shelves in two Wednesdays.
Why are we raving about this new series? Issue #1 has it all:
- Francavilla serves as writer and artist for the entire series. Clearly a labor of love, this is one man’s vision, and if Issue #1 is an indication of things to come, it’s the reason we love projects that reveal the creator’s view of the story from end to end. His dialogue is crisp and his style evocative. His work sometimes reminds me of Tim Sale, like Sale’s work on his Catwoman: When in Rome mini-series, with all the Italian-design influences such as his script choices and his lobby card ads that spring to life like they are advertising a new Alfred Hitchcock mystery thriller.
- Francavilla is creating his own cover art. We’ve written before about the trick of getting lured to a comic book series by a brilliant cover, only to be disappointed with what’s inside. No worries about that here.
- A sympathetic hero. The Black Beetle is just plain cool. His mask looks a bit like Nite Owl, a look comic book fans are probably predisposed to like. He takes action, he’s not “all brawn and no brain,” and he makes mistakes. He gets hurt. He’s kind to people. We want him to succeed.
- It’s noir like you want it, full of back alleys and mobsters. We’re reviewed Ed Brubaker’s Fatale series before–a solid piece of storytelling. But where you might find Fatale lacking in style and heart, Francavilla has that covered here. His four-color scheme of blue, orange, black and gold is original and stunning, taking us back into the streets of the city of decades ago.
- Montages and action panels. Francavilla really sucks you into the past with his classic designs. His montages on a single or double-page spread begs the reader to take his/her time and examine all the details and signs in the backgrounds. Black Beetle in action spirits us away as we follow him on his mission, even if that means taking us over the edge of a freefall from an 18-story building.
- An awesome villain. We only get a peek at Black Beetle’s nemesis in Issue #1, but what we get to see is intriguing–a costumed baddie with a slick look all his own.
So what are you waiting for? Get this one on your comic book store pull list so you don’t miss out.