K-11 Volume 5: the other side of the Cold War

K-11 Volume 5: the other side of the Cold War

K-11 Volume 5

When K-11 arrived in bookstores with its first volume, many let themselves be tempted by the easy assonance between the rebirth of the protagonist and the supersoldier of comics par excellence, Captain America. Both children of a scientific project, indeed science fiction, both have become a pride for their country and seen as the future of their nation. On closer inspection, especially in the light of the fifth volume of K-11, the similarities between the two characters are decidedly inferior to the dissonances, demonstrating how Matteo Casali has not limited himself to offering a rewriting of the myth of the Sentinel of Liberty, but has instead wanted to create a personal portrait of an era, coloring with the dynamics of a comic story one of the darkest periods of contemporary history.

From the end of the Second World War, told in its final stages, up to the birth of what became the Cold War, Casali uses his protagonist, Karl, as a privileged point of view to relive, from an emotionally fresh perspective, the narrative suggestions already addressed in novels and films. It is difficult to think of the Cold War and not remember the great spies such as James Bond or the incredible literary and film production that have provided us with an often one-way portrait of this contrast between the two blocs, Soviet and American. Casali, on the other hand, has decided to emancipate itself from this granite tradition, overturning the initial point of view by transforming it into a bipartisan struggle between reasons of state and individual identity.

K-11 Volume 5: homeland, honor, family

Speaking of K-11, in fact, we are not facing an excessive reading, however misleading Karl's powers may be. On closer inspection, in fact, the consequences of the experiments to which the protagonist was subjected, initially for defensive purposes in anticipation of a nuclear holocaust, are not used as weapons by this human guinea pig, but are made by Casali an interesting narrative tool, a curse, which Karl cannot escape. A vision that man arrives at as he becomes aware of his role within the Soviet society in which he grew up, a social context in which it is not the individual but the collective that counts, a moral foundation on which the entire ethics is based interior of Karl. At least, in the first place.

Casali, in fact, accompanies us in a progressive awareness on the part of Karl, who goes from being a son of Mother Russia, a cell of a larger organism, to feeling an autonomous entity. As an evolution of a character, it is an important growth, if we consider how Casali develops this process, passing from the realization of all those functions that were strongly desired by the Soviet mentality (sacrifice, homeland, family), but which for Karl instead become a sort of catharsis that leads him to wonder what is beyond his duty. Where does the son of Russia end and the individual begin? A fundamental question, which makes Karl not a superhero, but a super-individual, an atypical creature in a world of hypocritical equality ready to claim its own specificity.

In the first four volumes of K-11, Casali guides us in this evolution of Karl, an inner change that leads him to meditate on desertion, surrendering himself to the enemy, to America. On the other hand, American propaganda has always distinguished itself in that period by showing itself as the Land of Freedom, where everyone could have a chance. For Karl and his family this was synonymous with a chance to have a new future, a perspective that we expected to finally see in the fifth volume of K-11. And Casali does not disappoint us, but achieves this goal by maintaining its narrative coherence, avoiding rhetoric and taking the opportunity to show the other side of the Iron Curtain seen through the eyes of the enemy. An ideological dualism which, through Karl's eyes, is not a revival of the classic defectionist cliché, but a personal experience made of bitterness and disappointment.

Beyond ideology

A well see, K-11 is a story of betrayal, but the victim is not a nation, it is not an ideology, but it is the protagonist himself, Karl. In previous volumes, we have seen how his blind idealism towards Soviet doctrine has been manipulated and enslaved, making him a tool. His search for an alternative led him to pour out his hopes on the vaunted American freedoms, but will this really be the case?

K-11, with its fifth volume, offers us the answer, cruelly putting Karl in front of the truth. What made him so valuable is also his chain, which turned him into a dangerous tool that is tempting to nuclear powers. He and the 'atomic family', considering that his heirs also show his powers, are an asset, not individuals. And we return, in a certain sense, to the origin of the protagonist's moral vicissitudes: the flags change, the words are different, but the spirit is the same. Karl, in one way or another, must resign himself to being a weapon, no matter who wields it, but above all he must accept that he has to sacrifice himself if necessary.

Between enemy lines in the Korean War, first clash between the two Blocs, Karl understands that there is not much difference between the Soviets and the Yankees. On closer inspection, Karl is betrayed again, but his vision of the world now allows him to follow his own self-preservation instinct, which sees his family as the fulcrum of his existence. A vision of the world that inevitably distances Karl from the role of hero, bringing him ever closer to that of an individual, a definition that leads him to make immoral and extreme choices, but always aimed at preserving his family.

Casali works wisely in this emotional terrain, intertwining Karl's firmness with the search for a new balance for his wife. Time . Deprived of moral support and far from her world, the woman relies on religion, an element that her husband does not like, still tied to certain legacies of her upbringing. With this element, Casali introduces a characteristic element of American society, making it at the same time a refined analytical tool with which to portray the American hypocrisies of the period, working to perfection on the dialogues, which photograph the American mentality of the period.

Casali combines this social portrait of America with its history, bringing out the new tensions between the States and the URRS that characterized the early 1960s. An escalation of the tension between the two countries that appears in the final part of the fifth volume of K-11, leaving us with the feeling that the epic of this super-individual still has a lot to say.

K-11 : the end is the beginning

To give vision to this last chapter of K-11 is Stefano Landini, who best interprets the narrative tone of Casali. In portraying Karl, Landini places him at his best within a real world, in which images that have become history appear and which the designer reproduces by capturing their spirit. Both in portraying the daily dimension of the characters and in letting the most intense and violent tone of the story emerge, conveying to the best the expressiveness of the actors of this human drama, embellished by the impeccable coloring of Fabiana Mascolo.

A story which should not end with this fifth chapter. K-11, like other works of the caliber of Il Confine or Senzanima, has shown that Audace, Bonelli's narrative line dedicated to more demanding themes, is a project that allows high-level stories to be brought to the bookstore. Casali, with K-11, confirms this feeling, creating not only a narrative arc, but giving life to what presents itself as a wider narrative context. An intelligent production, rightly enhanced by Bonelli with great editorial care, embellished by the wonderful cover of Emiliano Mammucari, as well as an extra that enhances the genesis of this engaging series.

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