Page 45 Review by Jonathan
I need to find Sebastian Little Hand Fletcher.
The piano player? I love his music
For as long as Ive known him, Ive done everything I could for him, personally and professionally. But hes been missing for months now.
That doesnt necessarily mean hes in danger...
Hes a heroin addict. Im afraid hes in danger of doing something stupid. You see, Im 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 isnt quite exactly how it seems. For a start theres 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 Blacksads services.
What does become apparent, though, is that someone wants Little Hand to play his last note, and in fact theyve handed off some strychnine to the local heroin dealers (who are horses, of course) to pass on to Sebastian to ensure hell 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, theyve 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 hes carrying around in his pocket, is determined to make a stunning comeback on the ivories with a brand new song hes written entitled Pizen Blues. Its 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 hes not planning on shooting up until after hes 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!
This fourth instalment of Blacksad was certainly worth the wait, I must say! Its as gripping a story from Juan Diaz Canales, if more straight crime and less socio-political than the previous three instalments collected together in 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 Guarnidos 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 its 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. Its completely standalone and you dont need to know anything that has gone previously. If this is your first experience of John Blacksad though, I would think its a pretty safe bet youll be picking up the first work shortly thereafter. My only very minor gripe about this volume was that I didnt 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. Its all extremely interesting stuff, its just that I was so disappointed when I realised Id 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!