(Dark Horse Comics, 2013)
Review by Raymond Jacques
Story & Art by Francesco Francavilla
Lettering by Nate Piekos of BlamBot
Covers by Francesco Francavilla
Series Editor: Jim Gibbons
Let’s be clear: I LOVE FRANCESCO FRANCAVILLA. That is a fact. You NEED to know that right off the bat.
And another point of interest: You NEED to love Francesco Francavilla, too! Beyond being one of the industry’s most sought after cover artists he’s also one of the absolute best comic book storytelling artists in the game. I fell in love with Mr. Francavilla on DC’s 2011 instant classic, Batman: The Black Mirror (originally appearing in Detective Comics vol.1, #871-881), where he collaborated with Scott Snyder & Jock to deliver one of the finest and most haunting Batman tales ever told. In that story (which rightfully made Scott Snyder’s comic book career) Francesco Francavilla’s beautifully inventive layouts, tasteful color choices, & heartwrenchingly expressive depiction of Jim Gordon at his most conflicted are the heart of the piece and steal the already phenomenal show. I would suggest The Black Mirror to anyone on Earth. Instant addiction.
Which brings me to The Black Beetle: Mr. Francavilla’s creator owned superhero-detective-mystery man character who protects & operates out of fictitious 30’s-40’s era Colt City. Each cover is a beautiful noir-nostalgia bathed movie serial lobby card for this month’s installment adorned with the blurbs reading “399¢” & “A Mystery Tale by Francesco Francavilla”. Also, in a touch that tickles my Golden Age Batman loving sensibilities, The Black Beetle’s identity remains unknown to the reader!
From top to bottom, in every aspect & category, Francesco Francavilla’s The Black Beetle: No Way Out is an absolute masterpiece. There are no peaks and valleys of quality storytelling each and every issue is a perfectly sculpted gem hand carved by a master’s sharp vision. The conceiver’s love for the material drips right off of the pages and flows right into you. This laborer’s love is tangible. Like Alfred Hitchcock or Dario Argento in their chosen medium, Francavilla excels and so often amazes in his crafting & handling of plot, dialogue, mood, expression, composition, color scheme and control of detail that the effect becomes total dazzling immersion into Colt City and it’s mysterious ongoings.
Maestro Francavilla manages to laser beam several distinct loves, influences, archetypes, concepts & trappings from Classic Cinema, The Golden Age of Superheroes, Pulp stories, Film Serials, Weird Fiction, Adventure stories, Crime Fiction, Film Noir & Italian Giallos (and dare I say a little of the BEST episodic storytelling elements of Batman: The Animated Series) into a prism & distills it into one of the single most beautiful & original pieces of comic book adventure storytelling you will ever place your hands on. Intrigue filled, gorgeous perfection. Eagle-eyed readers will notice a cool cameo of some of Mr. Francavilla’s artistic peers later in the book (including a certain comic book legend Jim Steranko who has been setting the Twitter world on fire with outlandish tales of his death defying youth as an escape artist/fire breather).
I will not spoil the plot. I will tell you what you will find within.
NO WAY OUT is Mystery.
NO WAY OUT is Impossible Danger & Daring Escapes.
NO WAY OUT is Gangsters & Guns.
NO WAY OUT is Shadows with Shadows.
NO WAY OUT is The Madness of Labyrinto.
NO WAY OUT is the first in what is an ongoing series of Black Beetle mini-series with the next set to begin in this Fall entitled “NECROLOGUE” & is being billed this time as “A Horror Tale by Francesco Francavilla”. Jump in. I know I’ll be there.
I give THE BLACK BEETLE: NO WAY OUT #0-4 my absolute highest marks for it’s individual voice, flawless execution, unerring quality & super readability. An utterly awesome mini-series ANYONE can pick up and fall into. I suggest you do.
THE BLACK BEETLE: NO WAY OUT receives a score of 10 out of 10 = ***** 5 Stars.
THE BLACK BEETLE: NO WAY OUT # 0-4 is available at finer comic book stores everywhere.
Dark Horse’s THE BLACK BEETLE Vol.1: NO WAY OUT Hardcover collects #0-4 as well as Bonus Material and is available for sale Oct. 16, 2013 for $19.99. It is currently available for preorder here.
Follow Raymond Jacques on Twitter: @danceformyhorse