Blacksad: A Silent Hell – Juan Diaz Canales

This fourth volume of Blacksad is a real treat. Once again we switch genres and locations with a thrilling and tragic tale set in the New Orleans Jazz scene.

Like the previous stories this is a deep and complex tale, not because of gimmicky twists and turns, but because the world and characters are so rich and textured you don’t feel as if you are being led through a linear plot. This is more Gershwin musical than formulaic whodunit.

The art is mind-bendingly good and this has to be one of the most beautiful stories ever told. Guarnido is a true artist in every sense of the word and every single panel is lovingly rendered in watercolour making it a miniature masterpiece. His understanding of lighting and proficiency in its rendering is second to none. All the backgrounds are packed with details and he is able to transform the 2D page into a 3D world. The plethora of locations visited means that each scene is graphically unique.

A lot of the story is told in flashbacks and until you figure out that all the flashbacks are in daylight and the real-time is at night you can feel a little lost. As there are no captions and the scene changes are abrupt and often mid-page this isn’t the friendliest story to follow. But being treated like a grown-up by an author is nothing whinge about.

This is a huge hardback tome, and in addition to the story there is a separate, almost shot by shot commentary of the artistic process by Guarnido. It is staggering to learn that each single panel may have as many as six full-colour preliminary paintings before he is happy with it. His attention to detail makes this book a privilege to read. If you are any kind of artist this commentary and the accompanying art is a true master class. Even if you aren’t it is a real eye-opener to see how an artist and his medium create magic.

There are also a pair of two-page short stories, one warm and funny, and one satirical and ingeniously clever.

This work delights on all fronts and the sturdy hard cover makes a real impact on the reading experience. Nothing has been skimped on the production here. It truly deserves a Double Thumbs Up!

184/181.

Tomorrow: Tomb Raider: Saga of the Medusa Mask – Dan Jurgens

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