Friday, September 26, 2014

The Black Terror by Smith, Dixon, and Brereton

The Black Terror  
Beau Smith, Chuck Dixon, Dan Brereton
Eclipse Comics, 1990

'The Black Terror' was a costumed crime-fighter who first appeared in 1941 in Exciting Comics; since that time, the rights to the character have passed through a seemingly endless number of indie comics companies. The most recent incarnation of the character is in a webcomic titled 'Curse of the Black Terror'.
In 1990 indie publisher Eclipse Comics acquired the rights to the character, part of the company's strategy of issuing superhero titles based on Golden Age properties, such as Airboy

'The Black Terror' appeared as a three-issue prestige format series during October, 1989 (issue 1), March, 1990 (issue 2) and June, 1990 (issue 3).

The Eclipse Comics series was written by Beau Smith and Chuck Dixon. The artist, who supplied painted artwork, was Dan Brereton.'The Black Terror' was his first major comic book assignment. Brereton has since gone on to be one of most well-known contemporary comic book artists, one of the more celebrated examples of his work being DC's Thrillkiller.

In the Eclipse Comics series, the Black Terror is one Ryan Delvecchio, who is working as hired muscle for a Chicago crime syndicate headed by Anthony Capone, descendent of Al Capone. 

Capone has corrupted the entire political establishment of Illinois (remember, these were the days before Rod Blagojevich), and the clandestine crime-fighting organization that Delvecchio works for is convinced that Capone has ambitions to take control of the economy of the entire country.

By day, Delvecchio works alongside Frankie Dio, the psychopathic enforcer for the Capone family. Together, he and Dio track down and punish squealers and embezzlers who have earned the wrath of the Capone family. At night, donning the garb of The Black Terror, Delvecchio rousts criminals and sleazeballs, grilling them in the hope of uncovering Capone's plans.

'The Black Terror' is first and foremost a crime comic rather than a superhero comic; the focus is on mood and atmosphere and a (rather incoherent) plot. On the whole, Brereton's artwork, relying heavily on blacks, grays, and splashes of incongruous color, works best in this sort of milieu. The few fight scenes that occupy the trilogy tend to come across as static and inert.

In keeping with the dedicated Noir atmosphere of 'The Black Terror', there is a femme fatale in the form of Anthony Capone's daughter Allison. Brereton ably represents her as a sort of quasi-Goth chick, in an early 90s style......

If you are a fan of Brereton's artwork, or a fan of crime comics with a 'retro', Noir-ish aesthetic, then 'The Black Terror' is worth getting. While a graphic novel compiling the three-issue series has never been released, full sets of the all three comics can be obtained for reasonable prices at your usual dealers.

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