Francesco Francavilla uses a lot of tropes that have become synonymous with 30s style serials. We have an ancient artifact, Nazis, and a hero. It’s a plot format that has been done for some time, but Francavilla makes it a lot of fun. The reader doesn’t know much about the Black Beetle, but the style is enough to bring them back for the next month. Not sure why the book has chapter breaks, as there is not jump in time in between. In fact, if the chapter breaks had been removed, I wouldn’t have noticed. The dialogue feels simpler than most of today’s comics, but that’s not a bad thing. As someone who has seen a fair share of 30s serials, it helps bring the reader/viewer in. There is always someone who doesn’t know as much as the hero, so the hero explains the facts to them. Dr. Antonia fills that role, and I can guess the love interest as the series goes along.
Francavilla balances a noir style with serial style story telling. I wasn’t aware that the majority of this comic appeared in an issue of Dark Horse Presents. Francavilla added eight pages, adding quite a bit more exposition. The exposition, which is an intricate backstory for the artifact, is the only downside to this issue. It breaks up the flow of the comic, halting the momentum. The history for the Black Lizard is interesting, but having the back story come up naturally would have been better. After rereading the issue, I found it surprising how excited I was for the next issue. Francavilla gives us almost nothing as to who the Beetle is or what he is about, but I’m hooked for some reason. In the midst of my pull list being at it’s biggest, I’m finding room for The Black Beetle.
It comes at no surprise that The Black Beetle #0 looks great. The massive exposition dump flows very well. Two pages have almost zero panels, and are a amalgamation of the history of the Black Lizard. The Black Beetle’s costume stands out amongst the fairly grounded issue. But it seems fit for fighting, so I’m happy. The majority of the characters wear masks or goggles, so Francavilla doesn’t have a lot of faces to pencil. But Dr. Antonia fairs well, with her eyes being penciling beautifully. Francavilla’s classic style, plenty of red color, is on display here. I loved the way this looked in Black Panther: The Man Without Fear, but I’m still on the fence about it’s use in this series.
The Black Beetle was a big surprise for me. I wasn’t expecting a fun short story. But I now have another book added to my ever growing pull list.
The Black Beetle #0 gets 4/5
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