Bete Noir #2 & #3, Reviewed

Bete Noir issues 2 and 3 covers

How about a return to the dark tone story with a plot that’s meatier than a bigfoot and whale steak surf and turf platter, in beautiful sketch and ink art? Well, it’s a glorious return to Bete Noir and by crikey it’s good.

It’s been more than a minute since we stepped into a Mad Robot Comics comic and in particular this world of Bete Noir. This series has been fascinating with its story so dense Drywall (Scud: The Disposable Assassin) would struggle to hold his one. The first issue was so expertly crafted it’s stayed with us, ever-lurking with questions desperate for answers. Here we are now with last month's release of issues two and three from a Kickstarter that spoiled fans with a double issue drop. Yet those crafty creators have continued a story so intelligently delivered that despite what's presented, and indeed because of it, there is frantic desperation brimming need for more. Curse you Bete Noir, you're a maddeningly brilliant, magnificent bugger.

So, let’s start with the art. Kris Wantowhy returns to head art duties with a style I really enjoy. Everything said in the issue one review returns with art that's probably my favourite traditional-looking comic book art. It’s art that pushed me to find a new way to break it down as although bordering mainstream classic presentation it has a special quality, so here's my attempt. It’s comic book art of a Bronze age template with a dark age heart and a finish found by being kicked through a back street garage workshop. It’s that finish that I have a lot of love for. It’s grimy dark art that makes a world with superheroes a dismal, even downtrodden existence. This isn’t a world of shiny saviours but gritty real-world consequences. The Supernormals as they are referred to in Bete Noir is a perfect name as it’s a world Kris captures in the art. With superpowers can come super consequences and this world looks like it’s limping through them. Sketch and ink lines are crafted to the best strengths and the muted colour palette expresses the grimy art in the most gratifying way.

Bete Noir issue 2 preview

The violence of issue two shows how expertly dark this art can be delivered while the action sequences across both issues are right up there with the best comics can provide. If actions speak louder than words then Kris’s action panels scream.

Kris has great depth in the art as there’s also some great visual comedy portrayed here with the interactions with hulking robot Jeeves in issue two and the dive from the building in three. The character designs continue to astonish with Mystic Marc and the dead cat standing out in particular. Absolute favourite stylistically though has to be Jeeves, my favourite non-detective robot by far. Edgy feels like a tainted word somehow but this is edgy superhero art that is astonishingly enjoyable and steeped in a fatalistic wash. Extenuating everything with devilish precision is the lettering of HDe. Those are skills that I hope smash bills.

Exquisite art meets expert storytelling once again as Andrew Clemson drags us back into the darkness dripping world of Bete Noir. The air raid siren set whirling by pace and structure in issue one is now set ablaze in the introduction of two. Just when things seem to be settling into traditional superhero story lanes the plot pace hits a new stride as if someone approached the melting air raid siren then proceeded to try and put it out with a Molotov. Punch a hole in my chest to calm me down but this one's enthralling. The switch up here from huffing on high octane to clever format shift is completely brilliant. Then enter my favourite character (and second favourite robot of recent memory). Nothing in recent memory has made me chortle more than Jeeves. “Death to humans” is a brilliant catchphrase that I have muttered around the house particularly when delivering hot beverages to concerned looks from family. I hurt myself laughing at a coffee shop when I let that slip while picking up an order. To skip around plot spoilers Andrews use of the taking inventory scene that proceeds from the aforementioned Jeeves moment thrusts the story back into lore rich territory. The fact that we’ve seen more of the dramatic event that set this world in motion, in that breakneck introduction, is eloquently built upon with this stock check before issue two ends on a magical mysterious entrance. I don't know why but the inclusion of the dead cat is sweetly enjoyable.

Bete Noir issue 3 preview

Diving into issue three, I think it’s spoiler-free to say the focus is on the shadowy Jonathan and his mission of revenge. The big catalyst event shown in issue two is good enough reasoning but where the blame and who the target remains a mystery. The arrival of Mystic Marc keeps building and fleshing out the world with the dive off of the building offering wonderful comic relief. There's an interaction with a once super Stephen which illuminates things minimally but ramps up the intrigue exponentially. The two-pronged ending, firstly with Jonathan, raises far more questions than it answers in an exceptionally excellent way. While the more traditional villain revealed tips off the midpoint of the series that has left me desperate beyond measure for more.

For fans of gritty worlds, Supernormals, dark storytelling, laser eyes, punching holes in people, robots with severely lacking humanitarian language skills but excellent tea fetching capabilities, densely layered, action-packed thought-provoking mysteries you can be expertly entertained by Bete Noir. Issue two and three are not long released from that aforementioned Kickstarter but get glued to https://www.matthewhardycomics.com to secure copies when available. For more Mad Robot Comics there's a new title, Sickness Or Sorrow gearing up for a Kickstarter launch with an adult story of untraceable psychopaths and the organisation hunting them. Finally Thought Bubble attendees will be among the extra lucky as Mad Robot Comics will have a stand which I’m sure will be well worth seeking out.

Review: 5/5 Give me more!!

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