By Matt Johnson
Collecting three chapters previously seen in Dark Horse Presents, Night Shift is the first time the heavily pulp influenced Black Beetle has had an issue all to himself. Although I’m familiar with creator Francesco Francavilla’s work, I confess that I missed those earlier issues so this was my first meeting with the Black Beetle.
Set in 1941, this issue tells the story of a squad of Nazis out to steal an ancient amulet from a museum exhibit. Meanwhile costumed vigilante Black Beetle intends to ensure they fail. There are hints and allusions to a grander storyline at large but for this particular issue things are fairly straightforward. Don’t mistake straightforward for dull though because this issue is anything but. Tense scenes of suspense detonate into violent encounters as the hero clashes with the intruders. It’s a well paced story that speeds up in exciting intervals before slowing back down to let the plot develop further. Any worries about a disjointed story, due to originally appearing in three parts, can be discarded. Split into chapters it’s clear to see where the stories separate but without that cue you wouldn’t even notice. Everything flows together as if it were crafted for a singular issue.
Francavilla provides both visuals and writing here and the advantages are blindingly evident. It’s rare that a book gels absolutely perfectly with the art, and vice-versa. Reading Night Shift you get a real feel that Francavilla loves the pulp genre, and his creation. That may explain why he’s chosen to handle both. By doing so he’s able to tell us exactly the type of story he wants without any miscommunication or misunderstanding that could arise from handing the script to someone else. With a different art style Night Shift wouldn’t be nearly as atmospheric as it is. Conversely the art wouldn’t work with a lot of comics but here it practically sings. Each scene is doused in moody shadows replicating classic pulp imagery. Other moments are backlit with a sharp yellow or red fill. It simply couldn’t work any better than it does.
Altogether this is a very strong issue. Whether you came for the art or the story it’s difficult to not be satisfied. Since the two are so tightly intertwined any enjoyment from one will surely bleed into the other anyway. You could view this issue as an independent one-shot but it works great as an introduction too. For instance one of the final lines of the issue is “It begins,” a sentiment that fits perfectly. This feels like the start of something. If we’re not reading Black Beetle stories for the next few years I’ll be very surprised, and certainly disappointed.
Posted on January 21st, 2013
Category: POWER PANELS, REVIEWS
Tags: Black Beetle, Black Beetle #0 Night Shift Review, Dark Horse Comics, Francesco Francavilla, Matt Johnson, Power Panels, Pulp Noir comics