Black Beetle: No Way Out #2

by JohnP on February 22, 2013

The first issue of Black Beetle was met with resounding praise from comic book critics across the board. It was recognized as a bold, fresh take on the vigilante hero trope we have seen so many times before. It showed that Francesco Francavilla is not only one of the greatest working comic book artists (if not one of the greatest comic artists ever), but also a great writer as well. Let's be honest, though. It could be that it was beginner's luck. It could be that we were all so wowed by the novelty of it all and the fantastic presentation that we flipped our lids a little too hard. It could be that Francesco had given us a great start, but wouldn't know where to go from there. So, now that issue 2 is out, what's the verdict?

If anything, things have gotten even better. How can you improve on something that was so good in the first place? Well, I don't know. I myself even gave Black Beetle #1 a 10/10. It can be controversial giving out a perfect score no matter how good a comic is, but I honestly could not see any single aspect of that issue that I did not love. The art, the writing, the storytelling, the panel placement, the splash pages, the tone, the style...everything just layered on top of each other in a perfect pulp sandwich that wouldn't taste quite as good with any of the ingrediants changed. Yet somehow I think this issue may be even better.

It begins right where last issue left off, of course, with the Beetle caught flatfooted as Labyrinto escapes the scene at the prison. No surprise that our clever hero is prepared for such an eventuality and eludes capture as well. The Beetle returns to the scene of the explosion which killed the heads of Colt City's crime families. In typical noir style, this detective work quickly gets him into a rather unpleasant situation. Specifically, locked in a sewer pit with a large number of voracious little evil-eyed rats. We see more of the enigmatic villian Labyrinto here, but still are left guess at his motives and origins. Francesco also seemlessly introduces the hanging plotline of the Hollow Lizard from the 0 issue, "Night Shift." If you missed this prequel of sorts, I highly suggest tracking it down or getting a digital copy (if you must - this wonderful art is best enjoyed in the physical format). Although it probably is not really necessary to have read that to follow the story, it is another great Black Beetle installment and for those who did read it, such as myself, it is very welcome to see these plot threads weaving into the story.

Art-wise, what can I tell you? It's masterful. Francesco Francavilla, like I already said, is one of the best there is. His style is very much a unique, iconic one that is instantly recognizable as his own. The way the action flows from panel to panel is effortless for the reader and allows for full submersion in the story. The use of different panel progressions, full pages and splash pages is varied and no one format is overused. It's so good one could almost say it would be show-offy if it didn't work so perfectly.

The only complaint with issue 2 of No Way Out is that it ends. And it ends in a bit of an unusual cliffhanger this time - it seems issue 3 will be showing us the Black Beetle's "Bruce Wayne", if you will. It should prove very intriguing to see the civilian side of the character for the first time. Speaking of Bruce Wayne, fans of Francesco's style would be doing themselves a favor to check out his Twitter feed and/or website for the series of "Batman 1935" illustrations he posted this past weekend. Maybe you all could join me in pestering Dan Didio to get hire him for an Elseworld's tale. But that's a different topic.

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