The Black Beetle Vol. 1: No Way Out (Dark Horse)


CREDIT: Dark Horse

Rating: 5/5 – Francesco Francavilla’s Creator Owned Pulp Hero!
By ComicSpectrum senior reviewer Shawn Hoklas.

Francesco Francavilla is one of my favorite creators currently working. His art style and coloring make me wish we could get more consistent and timely work from him, but whenever I can get his art I always walk away satisfied and feel as though it was worth the wait. The Black Beetle hardcover has been sitting on my shelf for quite some time and since we haven’t gotten any recent Francavilla work in a while, I thought now was the perfect time to read it. It’s absolutely what I expected and wanted, with jaw dropping art and exciting writing we see the Black Beetle investigating a murder in his fictional Colt City.

The Black Beetle was originally created by Francavilla ten years ago in 2006, first being published as a webcomic and then appearing in Dark Horse Presents before finally coming out as a four issue miniseries. Those early appearances in Dark Horse Presents were collected into a zero issue which is also presented in this hardcover collection, before the main mini series titled “No Way Out”. In the zero issue we see a more fantastic adventure than what we get within the main series as a group of black-magic hunting Nazis are trying to find a mysterious artifact called the Hollow Lizard that’s been found and about to be displayed within the Colt City museum. It’s an almost perfect story that introduces us to the hero, his city, and the tone and style of this new world that Francavilla has created.

We’re then treated to the main story which, although less fantastic in scope, is just as exciting as we see Black Beetle investigating a murder and meeting his first villain Labyrinto, another costumed character who wears a faceless maze pattern suit from head to toe. When the Black Beetle learns of a meeting between two major crime bosses, as he goes to confront them in the pub they’re meeting in, it suddenly explodes and both are pronounced dead from the blast. As Black Beetle investigates the main suspect, that suspect is killed as well which leads Beetle on a chase that never lets up until the very end, throwing a couple surprises into the mix that enriched the pulp influenced story.

Throughout the five issues, there are plenty of splash pages and double-page spreads that each could be their own cover. Each page and story is designed is such a way that it feels as though you’re either watching an old movie, or at the very least, looking at an old noir movie poster which relates to the time frame of the story as it takes place in 1941. Francavilla takes that one step further in the production of the book with it’s titles, introductory splash pages and the brilliant lettering found throughout. At the end of the main story we see some nice extras that show Francavilla’s sketches, covers and lobby cards used as promotional materials. It’s a fantastic and complete package that’s worth every penny. Since this original series, the follow up which was announced and titled Necrologue has been delayed since 2013. According to Francavilla’s twitter page, 2016 is the year of the Black Beetle so hopefully we’ll see his return soon, but until then, I’ll be happy to give this collection another read!

Reviewed by: Shawn Hoklas
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