THE BLACK BEETLE
(No Way Out)
Written & Illustrated by Francesco Francavilla
Dark Horse Comics
(1 of 4)
There have always been pulp inspired comics even during the heyday of the pulps. There were Shadow and Doc Savage comics etc. For the most part most of those were badly done rip offs of the prose tales. As time went on pulp characters like Tarzan and others continued to find their way into comic books from various publishers.
Since the advent of the New Pulp Movement (and yes, it is a genuine movement) we’ve had some pretty drastic highs and lows in pulp inspired comics. DC’s abysmal New Wave was a major disaster which pulp enthusiasts predicted would flop long before the company had released a single title. DC attempted to re-do pulps and completely alienated the one audience that might have helped them win this market. Idiocy on a grand scale was evident.
Moonstone Comics gave it a shot with their Return of the Originals but most of their books, though well intentioned, came across half-baked in weak production values across the board. Offered up at a time when the company was making a very serious change to the more lucrative prose books, Moonstone pulp comics were really a sad misfire. Soon thereafter Dynamite hit the scene with their big splash reviving the Green Hornet; never really a golden age pulp but a pulp character nonetheless. And with Matt Wagner’s Green Hornet Year One, Dynamite hit a solid homerun. Soon they were following this up with the Shadow, a new Spider and ultimately their over-the-top group pulp team-up, MASKS. Thus today when a fan says pulp comics, they immediately think of Dynamite. Not a bad connection to have instilled in your readership.
But Dynamite and Moonstone aren’t the only ones doing pulp comics. Dark Horse has had tremendous success with their Conan series these past few years and even dabbled in New Pulp creations with Mike Mignola’s creation of Lobster Johnson. Now they’ve delivered a brand new classic pulp hero in Francesco Francavilla’s THE BLACK BEETLE. This book is easily one of the best pulp comics ever done with wonderful, moody artwork and a typical fast paced purple prose plot that is pure fun to read. Francavilla has been a long time pulp fan as is evident by his own website and when Dark Horse recruited him a while back to do covers, it didn’t take a Nostradamus to predict he would soon be delving into the pulp field with his considerable talent.
If you aren’t picking up THE BLACK BEETLE you are missing tons of great pulp adventure. This is offered up as a four part mini-series. This reviewer truly hopes its only one of many to come.