The Black Beetle: Kara Böcek

Francesco Francavilla’s stylish neo-pulp The Black Beetle returns with a second collection, Kara Böcek.

In 1934, the mysterious hero journeys to Istanbul on the trail of a powerful, obscure weapon that could have a serious impact on the impending global crisis. The hero makes contact with a suspicious antiques dealer, while contending with a squad of Nazi agents and some local muscle. The weapon the Black Beetle seeks may also be the key to saving him from some German aggression.

As with the previous No Way Out, Kara Böcek is a highly stylized noir/pulp mash-up that allows Francavilla to stretch his wings as an auteur. The story, originally serialized in Dark Horse Presents, wisely keeps the plot uncomplicated, a straight ahead caper, with an exotic locale, car and boat chases, fist fights, gunfire-punctuated showdowns and an outlandish MacGuffin driving the action.

That leaves Francavilla plenty of room to operate. His lead character (who doesn’t even don his mask and cape until well past the halfway point) gets room to breathe and show off a bit more of his personality. Despite limited space, Francavilla manages to elevate his key supporting players beyond stock. The story relies heavily on stylish atmospherics, to strong effect. The auteur uses all his tools to craft a strong sense of place and era, with an end result that mixes in touchstones like Indiana Jones, The Shadow, Doc Savage and Batman, among others. It’s a canny riff on classic favorites that’s a lot of fun.

But it’s the art where Francavilla, essentially a one-man band, really shines. His page compositions are simply gorgeous, thoughtfully designed and full of smart details, but never overstuffed or excessively busy. He uses soft line work, light inks and a muted palette punctuated by occasional bursts or red or yellow to generate considerable visual impact. The book is just a joy to look at, you’ll want to stare at the pages to take in the care and detailed work involved.

Even if you haven’t read the previous volume, The Black Beetle: Kara Böcek is easy to jump aboard and enjoy. If you’re a fan of Francavilla or just enjoy offbeat retro riffs, it’s worth a shot.

Author (Grievous Angels) and pop culture gadabout #amwriting

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