The Black Beetle: Kara Böcek collects five issues of Dark Horse Presents (before he had his own semi-regular series) and the titular hero has left Colt City and the US. And he heads to one of the most mysterious cities on the planet: Constantinople. He is there is recover a mysterious object older than the pyramids which could vault the Nazi way ahead of the pre-war allies.
Travelling under the cover name Thomas Sawyer, the Beetle plays cat and mouse games with the Nazis through Istanbul, or as Francesco Francavilla (Lone Ranger, Riverdale, Darth Maul) insists on calling it Constantinople (but remember, if you’ve a date in Constantinople, she’ll be waiting in Istanbul). Both sides are trying to be quiet as they track down the object of power. Both sides fail, miserably.
Francavilla uses the setting of Constantinople, where the mysterious East meets the decadent West, to his advantage and while the story plays out like an old exotic serial adventures from the 30s & 40s, you can see the nods he plays to both Indiana Jones and James Bond. The story is clever and fun and doesn’t take itself too seriously, all the while threatening to destroy the world.
In many ways, this is my favorite Black Beetle story. He has much more limited resources in Istanbul and the Nazis are anxious to show how strong they are, while trying not to tip their hand that they know as little about the mysterious object as the Beetle and his allies.
The art remains strong throughout the entire series with the sepia tones during the day and the nighttime blues really give this story weight. Also, Francavilla’s heavy uses of detail absorbing blacks not only give this story a very German Expressionist feel, but also play as an homage to one of the great comic book artists, Alex Toth.
Another element that I really enjoyed was how long Francavilla, held on to the Tom Sawyer disguise, with the Black Beetle outfit not making an appearance until late in the story. That really helped play up the spy versus spy elements of the story, in a way that would have been lost had the Black Beetle shown up early in the story.
In some ways, I prefer to catch The Black Beetle stories in the collected form due to the semi-irregular publishing schedule of the book. And this series certainly benefits from keeping the cliff hanger endings of each chapter, while letting the reader indulge in binge reading each addictive chapter. While having a slightly different feel than other Black Beetle stories, Kara Böcek is a great place to read the Black Beetle and decide if these adventures are for you.
Writer: Francesco Francavilla
Artist: Francesco Francavilla
Cover Art: Francesco Francavilla
Letters: Nate Piekos