Review: The Black Beetle – No Way Out #1

Written and Directed by Francesco Francavilla

Every so often, I read a comic book that makes me say out loud “Man, I love comics.” Such is the case with Dark Horse’s The Black Beetle #1, written and illustrated by Francesco Francavilla. Francavilla’s art has always stood out in the modern era, especially when it’s something in a superhero book. His recent work on Detective Comics and Black Panther were prime examples of what his style could bring to the superhero genre. The imprecise lines, odd textures and minimal color palette are instantly different than most of the grandiose art in comics today. It’s a style that fits perfectly in his new series starring a pulp-inspired hero.

What stands out is that this isn’t an origin story. It’s the Black Beetle’s first comic, but we don’t know who he is or why he’s waging his war on crime in Colt City. There’s not even a hint that we’ll be treated to flashbacks later in this mini-series. The story begins with The Black Beetle perched on a rooftop getting ready to dole out some justice to two of the cities most notorious mobsters. If this were a Marvel book, he wouldn’t put on the mask until issue 4. What’s interesting about this approach is that as a reader, I don’t miss the origin. I never found myself wishing I knew more about the hero or his motivations. For the sake of this story, all of that is wholly irrelevant. He’s a good guy chasing bad guys until a mystery blows up in his face. That’s all you need to know.

The mystery surrounds his latest case and the fact that someone blew up his targets while he was swooping in to take care of business. Someone is killing off crooks and Black Beetle is on the case, using his amazing array of dart guns, gadgets and what I’m calling a copter pack (it’s like a jetpack, but with a helicopter on it). He’s got a car and he has a hideout, but it’s all very minimal. This isn’t super computers and super cars. It’s very old school.

The Black Beetle #1 does everything right. It’s masterfully crafted in every way. The story is presented exactly as it should be. The mood is perfect. The Black Beetle and the mystery villain look really cool (and so do all of the gadgets). Even the lettering on this book is cool (Those drop caps? Nice.). Here’s hoping there’s plenty more Black Beetle coming our way once “No Way Out” is finished. And if we never get his origin? I’m perfectly okay with that. The Black Beetle: No Way Out #1 gets a perfect 5 out of 5 kids in a newsy cap. It has the perfect tone. It does exactly what it sets out to do. You should read it.

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Lee Rodriguez is a co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of Panels On Pages. He is also a freelance graphic and web designer, action figure customizer, swell guy, and an awesome dad.

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