Pure Pulp Adventure Returns From Francavilla In Black Beetle: Kara Bocek

by James Ferguson

Fighting Nazis is so in right now, but the Black Beetle was doing it before it was cool. In December, 1934, the masked hero ventures to Constantinople before it made the changeover to Istanbul (thank you to They Might Be Giants for that knowledge) to ensure a strange and powerful weapon doesn’t fall into the wrong hands. Although he went in undercover, he’s quickly targeted and attacked by Nazis. The Black Beetle will have to use all of his wits and considerable skill to keep the world safe from the Thousand-Year Reich of Hitler.

The Black Beetle: Kara Bocek was originally serialized in Dark Horse Presents #28 – #32. It has now been collected in a hardcover by Dark Horse Comics. Writer / artist / creator Francesco Francavilla’s work is just as beautifully rendered as ever. This is pure pulp adventure at its best.

Francavilla’s style is perfectly suited for a book like The Black Beetle. It hits on the nostalgia factor of the era, as if this was a comic unearthed from a forgotten trunk in an attic somewhere. This comes through in the very design of the panel layouts and especially the colors. Francavilla uses a cool tone for Kara Bocek, like the pages have been slightly faded over time.

The scenes at night are my favorite, as shadow is used very effectively to create mood. Faces are often shrouded in darkness before being illuminated by an orange glow, like they’re being lit by the moon. The design for the Black Beetle plays into this as when he finally appears in the last chapters, he’s like a shadowy ghost with only his big bug eyes and the logo on his chest shining through the darkness.

The art direction is second to none. The story flows wonderfully through each panel with some amazing double-page spreads. This keeps the excitement levels high as no two pages look alike. You don’t know what is going to be waiting for you as you turn the page.

I won’t reveal the McGuffin in Kara Bocek, but I will say that it works perfectly for the character and the time period. It presents a number of questions with none of them requiring answers. It works with the story and by the time it’s revealed, you’re so caught up in the action that you just go with it. In an instant, you understand why the Black Beetle has to do whatever he can to make sure the Nazis don’t get hold of this weapon. It would be disastrous.

The Black Beetle: Kara Bocek is a showcase for Francesco Francavilla. It shows what an expert-level storyteller can do with the medium. My only problem with the book is that it’s a bit on the short side. I want more Black Beetle adventures. It’s been too long since we’ve last seen the character and this is not nearly enough to satiate me. I need more pulp adventures that only Francavilla can provide.

The Black Beetle: Kara Bocek is set for release this week on September 6th at your local comic shop and on Amazon.