Reviews and Recommendations by Mel Odom, Professional Writer

THE BLACK BEETLE: NO WAY OUT by Francesco Francavilla

Francesco Francavilla The Black Beetle  No Way Out vol 01 cover

Buy At Amazon: The Black Beetle Volume 1: No Way Out

Author/artist Francesco Francavilla has been on my radar for some time now. I just didn’t know it. I loved his covers for the Shadow, Batman, and various other comics titles, but I’d just never bothered to check for his name. It’s a shame, but I’m an author myself and know many readers just don’t take the time to figure out who the authors/artists are on comics and books. I try to be more attentive, and do know many of the names, but I miss them occasionally. Of course, then I find out who they are because they keep pinging my radar, then I go find pretty much everything they’ve done that I think I will like.

Francesco Francavilla’s Black Beetle comics are some of those properties I’ll track down in the future. As graphic novels, though. I can’t see having to wait month to month, or even every two weeks for the new arc starting this month. I’d rather have the whole adventure in my hands.

Francesco Francavilla The Black Beetle  No Way Out vol 01 01

The Black Beetle is, unashamedly, cut from pulp cloth. His adventures could sit right up there beside Doc Savage, the Shadow, the Spider, and the Avenger. He’s just a man in a costume equipped with some ahead of the times (1940s) technology that’s really cool. We don’t even know his secret identity, which is a riff right out of the Shadow. For years those fans didn’t know who the Shadow was because Lamont Cranston was just a false face the Shadow wore.

The first adventure really sets the tone as the Black Beetle goes up against Nazi soldiers trying to steal a mysterious lizard statue from the local museum. Of course, there’s a beautiful young archeologist already working on the statue when they break in. Truthfully, that whole episode smacked of an Indiana Jones adventure and I loved it for that. But it did lead me to believe that the Black Beetle was simply interested in archeological things and fighting Nazis. That’s not true.

Francesco Francavilla The Black Beetle  No Way Out vol 01 02

The Mafia is also one of the Black Beetle’s targets, so he goes after all the bad guys. In the 1940s, with World War II in full bloom and lots of national crime in the United States, there’s a lot of crime to go around.

One of the neat things Francavilla does is show us the Black Beetle’s unmasked faces. We get to see him, more or less, but it doesn’t matter because we still don’t know who we’re looking at so the secret identity remains intact.

Francesco Francavilla The Black Beetle  No Way Out vol 01 03

The thing I love most of all, though, is Francavilla’s artwork. The look of the 1940s, of the sewers, of the museum and the artifacts contained there, the style and dress of the people, the speakeasy the Black Beetle drops into to get information, all of these places could have come from film noir. Francavilla loves American pop culture and it shows.

The Black Beetle also goes up against his own costumed foe, and the battle of wits is well done. The final revelation, when the pieces all come together, is revealed cinematically too. The puzzle pieces behind the headshots of the Black Beetle and his nemesis are corny in one respect, but man do they fit the overall tone of the book!

Francesco Francavilla The Black Beetle  No Way Out vol 01 04

Francavilla’s added materials in the back of the book are awesome as well. I loved the ashcans. They were like looking at advertising materials back from the heyday of Hollywood.

I’ve been won over by this book. It doesn’t break any new ground, it doesn’t go anywhere other books have not gone. The beauty is that it’s so familiar, like an old hoodie you pull on to lounge around it. This is comfort reading for pulp and comics and movie enthusiasts. Pick up a copy and enjoy.

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