The Black Beetle is a crime noire comic that harkens back to the days of classic crime-solving in a bygone era. The caped detective of Colt City solves crimes and fights evil not with super powers, but his wits. The limited run, another call-back to classic comic history, gives a self-contained story for the longtime fan and for new ones to jump in. In the limited run, The Black Beetle in “No Way Out”, we get classic noire through the modern lens, and its has never looked better.
The issue starts out with Black Beetle surveying the building where two of the largest crime families of Colt City are meeting. As he starts his stealthy assault, someone takes a more direct approach and sets off a round of explosives, killing off everyone inside instead. While the elimination of the majority of the crime syndicate in the city would normally be a good thing, the Black Beetle must track down the murderer before they move on to civilian targets.
The Black Beetle in “No Way Out” takes on the characteristics of a television special. If they had a “stay tuned for the next exciting episode of…The Black Beetle!” message scroll across the page, it would fit right in. The action carries the plot forward, and the pacing is so good that the end comes almost too soon, leaving off on a cliffhanger like so many shows before it.
As a fan of the original Doc Savage, The Black Beetle reawakened something inside I didn’t know was missing. The style of witty banter and inner monologue made me forget how much I hate when characters talk to themselves. It was the dry humor, and honestly, I heard the voice of an old detective from somewhere in my memories saying the words in a perfectly delivered dry voice.
The classic style of delivery and period locations only drove this nostalgic familiarity further home, while the modern art designs and graphic layouts added a fresh feel and vibrancy to The Black Beetle. Scenes of classic block art are interlaced with more kinetic full-page designs, adding depth to the story and action on display. Some of these full-page designs reminded me of movies of the period like Casablanca, and not just because they included an image of a plane with a red line trailing over a globe.
The Black Beetle in “Now Way Out” is a little hokey at times, with gruff humor and expected plot twists, and that might turn some people off, but that’s their loss. The art and writing are married so perfectly that they capture the essence of a classic crime novel while appealing to modern artistic quality expectations. Look for the video review of The Black Beetle in “No Way Out’” on the next episode of Comic Station.