The Black Coat: A Call to Arms
by Ben Lichius, Adam Cogan, Francesco Francavilla (Ape, 2006)

Who is the Black Coat? He's a spy who leads the Knights of Liberty, opposing the tyranny of the British in colonial New York City.

Right off the bat, you have to give credit to Ben Lichius, Adam Cogan and Francesco Francavilla, the creators of The Black Coat: A Call to Arms -- there aren't many (any?) modern comics works set in the pre-Revolutionary War period of America. This may be a first. Regardless of whether or not they are trailblazers, however, one thing is certain: The Black Coat is worth your time.

Writers Lichius and Cogan spin a web of intrigue, adventure and downright macabre creepiness as they lay out the Knights' struggle against an organization called the League. The presence of a shadowy mastermind concealed in bandages adds an element of mystery, while a Mr. Hyde-like serial killer called "The Butcher" supplies the appropriate chill factor. I'll not reveal the secret that makes that character all the more indomitable, but it's a fun detail that cranks up the story's sense of urgency.

The art work on the story is handled by Francavilla, who has a wonderful eye for detail, as well as the use of blacks and textures. His evocative style sets the tone for the story very well, and is integral to maintaining the horror factor. I've said it before and surely will again, it's a very small number of comics artists who can perform well in the black-and-white medium. Say hello to Francesco Francavilla, one of those who live there.

All in all, The Black Coat delivers the goods, and is one of those hard-to-find worthwhile alternatives to the glut of superhero books out there. It is recommended for older readers, due to some graphic imagery. But, even at that, the creators are good at weeding out the gore factor. It's disturbing without being disgusting.

review by
Mark Allen

2 June 2007

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