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Picks of the Trade: The Black Beetle: No Way Out

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When you take somebody like Francesco Francavilla, whose style is unique and so clearly his own, and you let him run wild with his own creation, in his own world, the outcome is bound to be nothing short of brilliance.  Not only did Francavilla create the Black Beetle, but he also wrote and provided the art for this collection as only he could. A bit noir, a bit pulp, a bit old school but all Francavilla, The Black Beetle: No Way Out is Francavilla’s best work to date.

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Considering the piles of covers he does each month, and contributions to Batman (The Black Mirror), Swamp Thing, Hawkeye, and more recently Afterlife With Archie, and upcoming issues of Guardians of the Galaxy, among many others, it’s safe to say that calling this his best work might raise a few eyebrows. The Black Beetle is Francavilla unchained; he doesn’t have the bonds of what the world should look like, or what a character should say or do. He’s doing exactly what he wants, when and how he wants to do it. Are the titles previously mentioned also great? Sure. As a matter of fact, his contribution to Scott Snyder’s The Black Mirror Batman story is not only my first taste of Francavilla but also one of my favorites from him, Snyder, and between the pages of a Batman comic. But, with that said, The Black Beetle is just that much better.

Francavilla’s writing is superb and he tells the story with great pacing and tremendous skill, but his art steals the show. Don’t get me wrong though, Francavilla provides everything you need to get to know Colt City, the Black Beetle, and this crazy world he’s created, but the art just plays on the narration and character interaction and takes it to the next level. The sound effects, the dark tones of reds, yellows, oranges and purples, the awesome amount of blacks—almost Mike Mignola levels of dark, black awesomeness—as well as his panel angles and creative use of the page; it’s all executed with the utmost care and consideration. No spot on the page is wasted and everything is carefully planned out and executed.

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There is nobody that can do Francavilla quite link Francavilla. Does that make sense? This is so far beyond pulp or noir; I’m going to dub it Francavillian and that’s how it’s going to be referred to from now on. It is its own entity, entirely separate from anything else out there, past or present. Sure, there are hints of some of his influences here and there, like classic movies or, of course, old noir/pulp comics, but he’s taken those and made them his own. This is a 5-star effort, and I don’t think I’ve given out all five stars yet. If that doesn’t speak to the quality of this book, I don’t think anything else will.

Even before this mini-series was completed, fans, creators, critics and everybody in between were practically screaming for more. This was a character that people wanted—no, needed—to see more of. We wanted more adventures of the Black Beetle, of Colt City and, whether it was Dark Horse or Francavilla or both, we’re lucky enough to get a follow up mini-series in November. If you haven’t already understood my excitement and enthusiasm towards this book well… you’re just plain not paying attention. This mini-series has put Francavilla on the next level. He is, unequivocally, one of the top talents in the industry today. Anything with his name on it is worth picking up because you know the type of quality and craftsmanship that he’s going to put into it. So, for your own good, go out and pick up this hardcover before it’s gone and make sure you pre-order the follow up series coming at the end of November. This has all the makings of a classic, and you definitely won’t want to miss out.

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