Monthly Archives: August 2014

The Black Beetle: A Review

Hey, everyone! Time for that review I promised of Dark Horse’s, Eisner Award nominated, The Black Beetle, a fantastic book by Francesco Francavilla that’s not about a dark-skinned friend of George Harrison’s. But you should have already known that…the spelling’s all off.

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Synopsis: The Black Beetle is a collection of issues from Dark Horse about a Batman-type hero (The Black Beetle) that lives and protects the fictional Colt City from danger. A seemingly disjointed tale (that I hope comes back in future Black Beetle stories) opens the collection and introduces us to the Beetle’s boldly-colored, noir world before getting into the real tale, “No Way Out,” which becomes the four-issue collected tale of crime-syndicate murder mayhem that the rest of the comic focuses upon.

Pros (and/or what you can use in the classroom): First of all, this book is school appropriate, yeah! Although it contains some violence, it’s nothing more than a PG-13 film, unless you count the bullets to the face…wait, you might want to clear it with your boss, but it’s not that bad. I swear! If you read my last post, I really got into the frustration of censorship in the classroom when it comes to books of the graphic orientation and what we can teach.

This book lends itself to a creative writing classroom, teaching its readers to create the suspense, drama, and dialogue that only a well-crafted noir piece can. I love it for that reason. If I ever taught a noir unit, or creative writing unit with multiple-genre options, this makes the cut. If I don’t, it doesn’t, simple as that. For the average unit or skills development, there are better books out there. But that’s just my reaction to teaching this book in the English classroom; if I taught art or film, the panel/story layout and bold color schemes makes this work a fantastic addition to those discussions.

Cons: The bad side of this book comes in the way that the story is very genre specific. If you are looking for a piece of noir where everything from the setting itself is a character, this is for you. If you are not looking for that, you won’t get many miles out of this title; however, I’m still putting it on my shelf because it’s cool, sharp, slick and The Black Beetle fights Nazis!

Rating: I have to give this book a 6/10 for planning in the everyday English classroom since it’s so genre specific, and I’d give it a 8/10 for your classroom library since the violence might be much for some readers (high school only please). I’d rate it for other disciplines as well, but I do not teach those classes, so I’ll leave it up to the readers and teachers of other classes to rate that below in the comments.

My friends that love the noir genre really enjoy this book, so if that’s you, please read it; it was Eisner nominated. Plus, The Black Beetle is a cool character…the creators never even let the readers know his secret identity! This may become more important as the Black Beetle’s adventures unfold, but for now, we are left to wonder with the rest of those that find themselves in Colt City. Maybe a good way to hook your students in the continuing adventures of The Blaaaaacckkk Beeeetlllee (this should have sounded like an old-timey announcer shouting it and trailing off).

Happy reading, everyone!