The Student News Site of Sonoma State University

Sonoma State Star

The Student News Site of Sonoma State University

Sonoma State Star

The Student News Site of Sonoma State University

Sonoma State Star

‘Black Beetle’ graphic novel pulp-noir masterpiece


A caped vigilante costumed in all black except for his crest and his ruby bug-eyes has been introduced by Dark Horse Comics as one of their newest crime-fighters, “The Black Beetle.” 

Writer and artist Francesco Francavilla has created a graphic novel that has left comic book enthusiasts itching for more of this retro-inspired action hero. 

Francavilla is known for his stunning cover art as well as his dramatic interior work and he shines both of these abilities in his new series. 

After making his professional comic book artist debut in Italy, he has worked for well-known publishers Marvel and DC Comics, although “The Black Beetle” is being published under Oregon-based Dark Horse Comics. 

Francavilla also won an Eisner award in 2012 for his retro renderings of comic book cover art for licensed properties such as “The Lone Ranger” and “Dark Shadows.” His dark, vintage-esque style is what makes The Black Beetle so appealing. 

This is immediately apparent when taking a look at the cover for the first issue of the series entitled “No Way Out.”  

A bright yellow backdrop plays a perfect contrast to a detailed image of a stealthy looking Black Beetle, ready for action with two pistols in each hand. 

When opening to chapter one, “Night Shift,” the reader is introduced to the Black Beetle as he saves a scientist from helipack piloting werewolf Nazis who are after a mysterious lizard amulet she was examining in a museum. This is all taking place in typical 1940’s metropolitan setting, which Fracavilla named “Colt City.” 

This is already a thrilling introduction to a series whose chapters are broken up in such a way that there is no option but to continue reading.

When it comes to crime fighting, the Black Beetle’s methods could be considered stealthy, but also ruthless. This is no Batman. The Beetle is not afraid to pull out his firearms when he feels it necessary. 

He moves swiftly and completes his missions with haste, although the results of his undertakings are not always positive. The Beetle possess the will and skills needed to take down smart and dangerous criminals, but can sometimes underestimate his opponent. 

While this may cause problems for this fictional hero, it makes for a gripping read. 

No pulp crime series would be complete without Italian mob bosses running the criminal empire. Two “big fat birds,” Don Pasqualle Galazzo and Joe Fierro, had planned to meet in a neutral area of Colt City and the Black Beetle knew this was a perfect opportunity to take them both down. 

A certain turn of events proved the Beetle to be too late when several members of the two mob families (except for Joe Fierro himself) were exterminated in a building explosion. 

Later, the bug-eyed vigilante went to pay a visit to a known accomplice of the families who was incarcerated in the most feared prison in all of Colt City. 

Another turn of bad luck left the Beetle empty-handed when the prisoner was killed by a man who would later be revealed as the hero’s best-matched villain, “Labyrinto.”

This mysterious criminal dressed in a yellow maze-like pattern has beaten the Beetle twice to the only sources of information on the city’s crime lords. 

Finally, at a party thrown by the existing mobsters, the Black Beetle once again uses his covertness to enter the venue and corner Fiero once and for all. 

That is, until, Labyrinto shoots the mob boss square between the eyes. 

This time, the villain does not dash to escape and instead insults the Beetle on his inability to beat him. Labyrinto is then surprised to find out that with his stellar detective work, the Black Beetle knew his true identity all along. 

With a brilliant plot and plenty of action, it is easy to look past the basic and cliché elements that Frankavilla uses in his story telling. 

Clueless henchman that can be compromised in seconds and corny lines like, “Tell them that these guys broke in…and the Black Beetle took care of them.”  

Although I feel I have heard this story before, it is presented in such a way that I still want to stick around and find out how our 1940’s bug-eyed action hero saves the day.


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