I have been burned by so very many independent super-hero books. The Heretic. Danger Unlimited. Ultraverse. Comics Greatest World. Basically most of Image’s output. So it takes a lot for me to pick up a new indie super-hero book. But I’ve enjoyed Francesco Francavilla’s Marvel work so much I felt I had to give the Black Beetle a chance.
I’m glad I did. This is a moody, atmospheric piece that really hits the pulp target. The Black Beetle is a sort of mix of the Blue Beetle, Dr. Mid-Nite, the Spider, and Lobster Johnson. He’s got some sweet eye bubbles, and he totes a gun. This guy is not afraid to shoot Nazis, in keeping with the pulp roots Francavilla is clearly going for.
The story is very brief, it is basically the Beetle taking on a few jetpack-wearing Nazis and acquiring a mysterious Egyptian artifact. There is enough backstory that it is clear Francavilla has spent a lot of time planning this out, this reads like a dream project. That is, the passion is clear on the page.
Francavilla loves this color palette. This thing is all blacks and reds, with swatches of color to bring out moods and emotions in certain panels. Another of Francavilla’s strengths is panel design. No two pages look the same, the layout and panel grids on each page move and shift to enhance the story. The panels vary in size and location to increase the atmosphere of violence.
I definitely dug the first issue, but I’m sad to see the next one will be $3.99. That means I’ll probably wait on the trade for the rest of this. I’ll get the whole package for a more reasonable price. But for fans of noir and pulp, this is worth checking out.