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Blacksad: A Silent Hell h/c

Blacksad: A Silent Hell h/c

Blacksad: A Silent Hell h/c back

Juan Diaz Canales & Juanjo Guarnido


Page 45 Review by Jonathan

“I need to find Sebastian ‘Little Hand’ Fletcher.”
“The piano player? I love his music”
“For as long as I’ve known him, I’ve done everything I could for him, personally and professionally. But he’s been missing for months now.”
“That doesn’t necessarily mean he’s in danger...”
“He’s a heroin addict. I’m afraid he’s in danger of doing something stupid. You see, I’m not just a patron to Sebastian... If anything were to happen to him it would be like losing a son...”

And so begins what appears, initially at least, to be a very straightforward case for private investigator John Blacksad and his right hand fox Weekly, to find a missing musician in the jumping, jazzy town of New Orleans, on behalf of the ailing owner of a prominent local record label, old goat Faust Lachapelle. Except very quickly, of course, Blacksad starts to realise everything isn’t quite exactly how it seems. For a start there’s the estranged son of the label owner, whose just a bit too friendly with the very heavily pregnant wife of the missing piano player, not to mention the loudmouth hippopotamus investigator who old goat Lachapelle hired and then promptly fired before retaining Blacksad’s services.

What does become apparent, though, is that someone wants ‘Little Hand’ to play his last note, and in fact they’ve handed off some strychnine to the local heroin dealers (who are horses, of course) to pass on to Sebastian to ensure he’ll soon be getting his very own jazz funeral, trombones, umbrellas and all. By the time Blacksad tracks the local dealers down with a view to finding Sebastian, they’ve already made the sale, making it even more imperative that Blacksad locates him as soon as possible. The down at the jowls boxer dog himself, meanwhile, oblivious to the hot shot he’s carrying around in his pocket, is determined to make a stunning comeback on the ivories with a brand new song he’s written entitled ‘Pizen Blues’. It’s a lament of sorts, for sure, but also a very incriminating one as well. And to make sure he delivers his damning message to perfection he’s not planning on shooting up until after he’s performed, if he can find a venue that will let him play these days that is, which means Blacksad still has a chance to save him!

It’s as gripping a story from Juan Diaz Canales, if more straight crime and less socio-political than the preceding collection (simply titled BLACKSAD), with the usual extremely witty dialogue and interplay between all the characters. Though, of course, John gets to steal most of the best one-liners! And yes, Blacksad simply would not be Blacksad without Juanjo Guarnido’s breathtakingly beautiful art. I instantly enjoyed that this story was set in a new locale, giving the artist chance to do something with a very different background feel, and he really captures the slightly wild Cajun flavour of the Big Easy. Once again, though, his true genius is in how he brings his anthropomorphic creations to life, by simultaneously making use of their distinctive animal features for maximum dramatic and comedic effect, yet doing so in such an incongruous manner that you do forget at times it’s an anthropomorphic work, usually until he hits you with a classic sucker punchline. I do think the equine heroin dealers were my favourite creations, actually, they did crack me whenever they appeared!

BLACKSAD: A SILENT HELL could easily be read without having first read BLACKSAD. It’s completely standalone and you don’t need to know anything that has gone previously. If this is your first experience of John Blacksad though, I would think it’s a pretty safe bet you’ll be picking up the first work shortly thereafter. My only very minor gripe about this volume was that I didn’t realise that fully half of it was extras, where basically Guarnido performs a show-and-tell with various of his first draft sketches (mightily impressive in themselves) and a commentary as to how he then intended to work them up into the final panels, and what he was trying to achieve in each case. It’s all extremely interesting stuff, it’s just that I was so disappointed when I realised I’d got to the end of the story and I thought I was just about half way through, simply because I was enjoying it so much!

Do note, though, there are a couple of extra short stories not available in the French edition, the first of which has a very amusing and somewhat poignant twist, right at the very end of the book. Hopefully señores Canales and Guarnido are already hard at work on the next instalment, while the third Bryan Talbot GRANDVILLE book (BÊTE NOIR) is guaranteed for December 2012!