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‘The Black Beetle Volume 1: No Way Out’ – Advance Hardcover Review (Beaten to a Pulp)

I have read many comics that are inspired by pulp action stories, but none that embody the genre like Black Beetle does. Francesco Francavilla’s writing and illustration are so on point that the book feels as much like a relic of the ’40s as a new and exciting crime story.

The book opens strong with Nazi agents flying in with helicopter backpacks in the opening one-shot. Yes, Nazi heli-packs are as awesome as you think they would be. After the one-shot, the story really takes off, as a labyrinthine story of greed and revenge unfolds. The mysterious Labyrinto seems to be waging a one-man war on the mob, but is he an ally or a foe?

The story is one of the strongest I have ever read. There is no character development, there is no character drama, and there are no character revelations. The Black Beetle’s real name is never revealed. I have no idea where his secret base is, what he does for a living, or what he looks like when he is not in the suit. As far as the comic goes, Black Beetle isn’t his secret identity; it is his only one. The comic doesn’t waste any time by exploring the characters. It doesn’t need to. This is an action story, so it is filled with action. Period.

Francavilla’s art is a revelation. Every panel, every page seems to be pulled straight from the adventure comics of the ’40s. There are pages that are so exquisitely detailed that they force you to slow down, and there are pages that are almost storyboards that beg you to keep up with the action. The result is a thing of beauty.

There are many comics that celebrate the pulpy past of the media, but none that embody that past. Black Beetle keeps the tropes and style alive, while adding just enough polish to keep things smooth. The pacing, story, and art are phenomenal, and the layouts are tremendous. The thing that elevates this book from well made to great is the style. You should pick this one up. I know I’m going to keep reading Black Beetle as long as it is available.

Five Nazi Heli-Bombadiers out of Five


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