Black Beetle: No Way Out #3 Review

No artist draws pulp like Francesco Francavilla, and if The Black Beetle: No Way Out #3 is any indication, he writes pulp just as well as he draws it. This issue was my first chance to check out the miniseries, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying it. Here’s the description from Dark Horse:

Under the watchful gaze of the mysterious Labyrinto, Black Beetle fights for his life! Is this the doing of a man that Black Beetle thought was dead? Could a zombie mobster be commanding the foes of Colt City’s dark avenger?! If he survives the night, the investigative insect will be left with questions to ponder as he takes his investigation . . . to the morgue!

Like fellow pulp hero the Rocketeer, the Black Beetle is wonderfully unencumbered by continuity. Specifically, this is because he’s only been in a couple stories and No Way Out is very straightforward. But, in a broader sense, it’s because pulp is almost inevitably nostalgic, and nostalgia claims that, bad as things may have been before, they were better then than they are now. Pulp hearkens to a time when comic books were not burdened with decades of continuity.

I was able to enjoy No Way Out with zero introduction. Other than the straightforward quality, there isn’t much to say about the writing. It’s serviceable, but unremarkable. However, it makes an excellent vehicle for Francavilla’s art.

The line art is stark, although slightly impressionistic.  However, the defining elements are Francavilla’s inks and colors. The inks are striking and over-powering, in a good way, firmly establishing the atmosphere. The colors contribute to this. The lack of any green reinforces the urban setting, while reds and yellows give the book a hot, airless quality.

The layouts of a fight scene halfway through the issue are fantastic. Panels tilted at an angle make the battle more chaotic and off-kilter. Smaller panel portions at the edges of the page suggests that there is much more conflict taking place than Francavilla is able to show us with limited space.

 The Black Beetle: No Way Out #3 is an incredibly fun read, not in spite of its dark grittiness, but because of of it.


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