Writer: Alec Worley, Doug Graves
Artwork: DaNi, Andrea Bulgarelli, Vincenzo Riccardi
Lettering: Simon Bowland, SG
Release Date: 21st July 2021
Making her first appearance as part of the 1988 Scream! Holiday Special, and undergoing something of a rejuvenation lately thanks to the creative partnership of Alec Worley and DaNi, Black Beth is a short-tempered warrior woman in the classic Red Sonja vein. The fairly obscure character was resurrected by the creative pair for the 2018 Scream! & Misty Special, made a return in the Misty & Scream! 2020 Special, and is back again for this year’s special with a supersized 32 page story.
Actually, this one-shot special features three stories in all; the titular “Devils of Al-Kadesh”, the surprisingly poignant three-page “Fairy Tales” featuring artwork from Andrea Bulcarelli, and the not-Black-Beth-related-at-all “Death-Man: When the Man Comes to Town”, a fantastically over-the-top slice of supernatural action from Doug Graves and Vincenzo Riccardi.
The main story tells the tale of Beth and her blind cohort Guido as they are roped into trying to hunt down and destroy a vengeful witch to save the city of Al-Kadesh, and features a pleasing blend of action and fantasy drama throughout. Worley comes across as a passionate fan of classic swords and sorcery comics here, and throws in some great moments along the way. And while the final sting perhaps doesn’t land with a huge surprise, Beth’s reaction to it – not to mention her demeanour throughout the course of the story – cements her as a thoroughly likeable fantasy protagonist that Robert E. Howard himself would be proud of.
On a personal note, it’s fascinating seeing DaNi turning her hand to this kind of genre, as I’m far more familiar with her more contemporary offerings like Coffin Bound (one of my absolute favourite comics of last year), and her striking convention sketches. Her work here is of typically high standard, disarmingly loose and almost sketch-like at times, while still managing to pack in an impressive level of detail. The Greek artist also provides her own colours here, delivering a striking palette with an almost watercoloured touch, resulting in a vibrant and fluid visual package.
As a standalone story, “Devils of Al-Kadesh” serves as a confident introduction to Black Beth and the world she inhabits, requiring no prior knowledge and giving us all we really need to know about the character in a single, easy-to-digest serving. The blend of magic, adventure and good ol’ fashioned swordplay is brought to the page well by both Worley and DaNi, and I’d definitely love to see the pair collaborating again on a brand new Black Beth tale sooner rather than later,
At the end of the day, what we have here is a fast-paced, straight-faced, sword and sorcery adventure. It isn’t trying to subvert or reinvent anything, feeling instead like a love letter to the genre in all its glory. And while there isn’t necessarily anything here we haven’t seen before, the confident execution and clear affection from the creative team ensures that this is still a thoroughly enjoyable read.
Available in digital from: 2000 AD webshop.
[PREVIEW ARTWORK – CLICK TO ENLARGE]