This is a column that focuses on something or some things from the comic book sphere of influence that may not get the credit and recognition it deserves. Whether that’s a list of comic book movies, ongoing comics, or a set of stories featuring a certain character. The columns may take the form of a bullet-pointed list, or a slightly longer thinkpiece – there’s really no formula for this other than whether the things being covered are Underrated in some way. This week: Black Beetle: No Way Out
Another week, and yet another case of “Alex bought something for Underrated without knowing anything about it beforehand.” This week we’re looking at the first volume of Francisco Francavilla‘s Black Beetle: No Way Out, another book that I found at a thrift store for an absolute bargain price. Actually, bargain is understating things. I paid $1 for this book (technically $1.25, but at but 4 get 1 free it works out to a dollar). Which is an absolute steal of a deal for a hardcover trade.
Black Beetle: No Way Out is published by Dark Horse, written and drawn by Francavilla, and takes the form of a modern reinterpretation of the old pulp novels of the 30’s and 40’s, with all the semi futuristic-steampunk technology and sleek lines that includes.
This throwback feeling permeates the entire graphic novel, genuinely allowing it to read as a pulp novel from a bygone era – but one with the tonal sensitivities of today. It’s within this area that Francavilla tells the story of a vigilante who is equal parts the Shadow, the Spider and the Black Bat – and though comparisons to Batman will be made, the only similarity there is that Batman is more prevalent in the cultural awareness of our medium than the other three characters previously mentioned. I’m not saying the comparisons are unfair, but that the similarities are more in line with the characters Batman took inspiration from rather than Bruce Wayne himself.
The story, then, that is told within No Way Out is very reflective of those pulp novels, especially the original covers that are used as story breaks between the individual issues. Francavilla’s artistic approach is very evocative of the art styles of the time – simple colours, thick lines and a sense of foreboding. With Francavilla handling both the writing and the art duties in the book, we’re given a tour-de-force of a creative offering as he delivers an incredible experience.
And that, ultimately, is why I loved this book so much. It’s an incredibly fun pulp story, a classic hero romp with a hero who in’t shy about using his guns. Of course that does leave a little room for folks to be concerned about a lack of substance in the plot, but I think for the most part that is a concern that can be put aside by the artistic offering.
This is a book that’s absolutely worth a read.
Yes, I only paid $1 for it, and yes, I only bought it because it was in a thrit store, but I am so glad that I did. Black Beetle: No Way Out is easily the best thing I have read all week – including the four other books I picked up – and I am frankly astounded that I had never read this before. I’m equally as astounded that I’d never even heard of the book before. Consequently, this is a book I don’t see getting the love it deserves – that’s why the book is Underrated.
Join us next week when we look at something else that is, for whatever reason, Underrated.