Blacksad: Amarillo – Juan Diaz Canales

Blacksad 05Here is another eagerly anticipated tale of our favourite feline detective. It starts with a great hook but ends up in an unexpected direction. Blacksad isn’t the star of the show here either but we do see a glimpse into his past and his family.

The art as always is superb, perfectly complimenting the genre showing noir is perfectly at home in the daylight. The hand painted look does everything that lumbering blocks of digital colour cant. Everything feels so organic and so tangible. From wonderful landscapes and an epic cover to feminine felines it is spot on. The 1950’s setting is also captured wonderfully with rich detailed backgrounds.

It is over too quickly but ends perfectly.

Thumbs Up!

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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

Blacksad: Red Soul – Juan Diaz Canales

This is an outstanding tale. A Hitchcockian thriller with communists, bohemians, fascists and a beautiful woman. You even get to find out what animal Hitler would be. Blacksad is more of a witness to unfolding events than a detective solving the case. He does however have a proper romantic entanglement like every gumshoe should.

The art is great as always with a fantastic scene at an aquarium. There are some wonderful colour contrasts too with real emotion being conveyed through the palette. There is more sex in this volume but it is beautifully and tastefully portrayed and conjures a real sense of intimacy.

A strong Thumbs Up!

183/182.

Tomorrow: Blacksad: A Silent Hell – Juan Diaz Canales

Blacksad: Arctic Nation – Juan Diaz Canales

Cats and racism. Not something you would instantly think of putting in the same book. Detective John Blacksad takes on the case of a missing girl and uncovers a murky world of prejudice.

This is a difficult book. The setting has shifted from generic Western country to unmistakably USA. A noire pulp detective story is hijacked by a civil rights, Nazi, KKK theme in a most unsubtle way. There is also a lot less polish evident as some clunky bits of dialogue or translation spoil the flow.

Beneath these awkward elements is a very good detective story, although you never get enough details to figure it out yourself and must wait for the reveal at the end. The art works very hard and the varied locations give a lot of scope to showcasing Guarnido’s talent. The lighting isn’t quite as majestic as the previous volume but there are some really good choices in terms of colour and tone. There is more sex and violence in this book and both are handled successfully.

Not the most convincing follow-up but worth checking out for the elaborate plot. Thumbs Up!

182/183.

Tomorrow: Blacksad: Red Soul – Juan Diaz Canales

Blacksad: Somewhere within the Shadows – Juan Diaz Canales

This is a classic noir detective story where the human characters are portrayed with animal faces and characteristics according to their natures. Originally published in Spanish then French, Blacksad refers to the main character, private detective John Blacksad.

The art in this book is superb, as you would expect from ex-Disney artist Juanjo Guarnido. The glossy Technicolor medium of comics finds it hard to do noir effectively without it just becoming murky. Guarnido’s amazing watercolour work and profound understanding of lighting is a superb fit. This truly is a cinematic book, just “like a film on paper” as Jim Steranko’s introduction puts it. The animalisation of the characters is so appropriate it becomes transparent. What better detective than a curious cat right? Just the faces look like animals the rest of the body is human but does retain their particular colouring. The rest of the world is human too with classic automobiles and cityscapes straight out of film history. Although a translation everything looks and feels appropriate. All the street signs, matchbooks and newspaper headlines are in English. The boxes and balloons are oversized to make substitution easier which is a little disappointing as it covers much of the art and draws too much attention to them. The plot is classic noir staple and our hero suitably embittered, troubled and far too curious for his own good. Very enjoyable in every respect. A classic Thumbs Up! 181/184. Tomorrow: Blacksad: Arctic Nation – Juan Diaz Canales