“The Black Beetle” #1 is the first issue of the continuing adventures of Francesco Francavilla’s pulp action hero. Fans of Francavilla may have seen the character around the internet or caught adventures of the Black Beetle in the series’ zero issue, which collected previous material from the pages of “Dark Horse Presents.”
Equal parts Batman, Blue Beetle (by name, if nothing else) and Indiana Jones, the Black Beetle is an action hero whose escapades don’t leave the reader wanting for adventure, excitement or intrigue. At first glance, it appears as though Francavilla might be riding a wave of resurgent pulp popularity, but this first issue propels the property beyond simple mimicry of pulp adventures or following a predefined set of instructions for crafting a good story. While some readers may find Francavilla’s use of narrative caption boxes excessive, there is no denying their effectiveness in adding depth to the character as his action sequences progress.
All the credit goes to Francavilla for the technical excellence of this book, with the exception of the lettering. Nate Piekos does an admirable job on typography, providing a very retro look to the caption boxes that narrate the adventures of the Black Beetle. The rest of the retro chic look is due in no small part to the imagination and brilliant execution of Francavilla’s art. The opening three pages of this issue are certainly enough to sell new readers, as Francavilla’s heavily-shadowed drawing style provides a dark pinup of the titular character followed by a quick setup for the story that unfolds over the rest of the page.
Francavilla makes a very strong case to support the theory that writer/artists have easier time conveying their story, bringing a very clear vision to the book that plays to his strengths both as a writer and artist. At no point does “The Black Beetle” #1 become muddled or hurried. By the same accord, Francavilla uses the entirety of the page, setting up design elements and filling the pages with simple mesmerizing drawings. Add in the fact that Francavilla is also handling colors for this comic and the visuals are even more appealing. Truly, this is his comic book, his character, his passion brought to the printed page.
Topped off by a Mike Norton pinup and a fill-in for the letters page from editor Jim Gibbons, “The Black Beetle” #1 is a fantastic diversion from current comic book reboots and reimaginings. This is a fun, adventure-filled, mystery-tinged story as welcoming to new readers as possible for a comic book. Quite simply, this is good stuff. I may not be the biggest fan of pulp adventures, but I am a self-proclaimed fan of all things good and this is very good indeed. Hopefully, as promised in the text piece at the back of this issue, this is just the beginning. I, for one, cannot wait to get more.