Several years ago, Keith and I went with our girlfriends on a road trip. To kill time and make the trip easier Keith had decided that talking to each other was never gonna cut it, so he had downloaded a bunch of old-timey radio serials to keep us entertained. The Shadow, The Blue Beetle, The Saint. Stuff like that. The other three really dug it, and for me, I never slept so well in a moving vehicle.

The forward to the book is written by Darwyn Cooke, a fellow Canadian and artist of some of my favorite comics (New Frontier, The Spirit 2006-08). If I could draw like one other person, Cooke would be mighty high on my list. He talks about being a non-American creator of American comics, and while usually these essays are pretty cookie-cutter, this one is an interesting read. Cooke is a smart guy, and while he loves comics, he also loves illustration and design. So when he loads on the praise for this book, it made it worth picking up to check it out.

The book itself is both written and illustrated by the Italian Francesco Francavilla. The style of book is fairly pulp hero, and as such, the writing is hard to judge. It’s not very deep, but that is also because it doesn’t need to be. It serves the genre, and it serves the action, so it’s not practical to critique it as such. It is good enough for what it does. The Black Beetle is a masked avenger, fighting crime in a corrupt and dark city sometime in the late 1930’s or early 40’s.

The art, on the other hand, propels this book to such great heights. The design, the layout, the dynamic motion, the ink and colours all make every page worthy of being mounted and framed.

I mean it, this book is a work of art. Everything looks like a fantastic movie poster for something starring Vincent Price in the 1940’s. These panels I pulled are not the best of the best from the book, they all look this good, or better.

If you’re looking for a good, pulpy super hero book, The Black Beetle is just what you need.