“In the world of horror pulp there is nobody doing better work than Francesco Francavilla.” – Steve Niles, author of 30 Days of Night and Transfusion, sums up Francavilla’s skill in this new pulp hero adventure starring The Black Beetle as the masked good fighting against the crimes of the city. In celebration of the fifth anniversary of Francavilla’s Pulp Sunday blog, in which he illustrated images from radio pulp serials, The Black Beetle brings a modern feel to the pulp and noir serials of the ’30s and ’40s with an original character who somehow feels like he’s been around forever.
The “quintessential pulp hero” Black Beetle protects the streets of Colt City, a huge crime city not unlike Gotham which was built from scratch by Francavilla around the character of Black Beetle, as well as the entire universe in which he lives. First appearing in Dark Horse Presents 2011, our confident protagonist is quiet, non-lethal and speaks in the style of an old detective narrative, right down to the interruption of thoughts by the words of others. It’s a simple set up; two crime families, the Galazzos and the Fierros, are meeting on neutral ground to discuss the future of Colt City’s criminal empire. A double page spread shows us the research and planning the Beetle has done, including photos and news clippings next to surveillance shots. When we see through the eyes of the hero, the world is drenched in an orange tint and the insect-shaped goggles feel like binocular lenses. Purple, blue and orange are the dominant colours throughout this book and are mostly used in very subtle block colourings.
The guards get are down with PCP darts, and as the Beetle prepares to swing in and deal with the major players once and for all, the building explodes and he falls down eighteen floors with flaming building remnants around him and survives thanks to a pile of rubbish – a result of the poor sanitation in Colt City. Like many heroes, Beetle is not the type to linger over his wounds, and patches up his broken ribs quickly before getting back to work tracking down the only surviving member of the Galazzos to a maximum-security prison. The colours shift toward neutrals and greys but the Beetle’s too late and although he finally gets a glimpse of the villain responsible for the lethal take-out of Colt City’s criminal world, the man gets away, framing him in the process. Little is known about him yet but his costume is entirely yellow with maze-like symbols over him and he goes by the enigmatic name Labyrinto – more will be revealed in the next issue.
Although Issue 2 is out already, Issue 1 is currently available in shops as a reprint thanks to the amazing success of the first run. So early into 2013, The Black Beetle is already being seen as one of the big hits of the year and although that is mostly the skilful artwork and narrative style it is also the love of the detective genre which is poured into every page, including the covers and advertising which are all inspired by 30s and 40s detective fiction films. “Written and directed” by Francesco Francavilla, this gritty romp into super noir is stirring things up this year and hopefully soon we will learn more about this newest detective hero and his world.
Originally posted on the Travelling Man blog here