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Blacksad: Amarillo h/c back

Juan Diaz Canales & Juanjo Guarnido

Price: 
15.99

Page 45 Review by Stephen

"I'll just try to find a nice, quiet job here, where I don't have to dodge bullets and nobody winds up dead… for a change.

Did you know that Walt Disney's Bambi was originally a flop? It's hard to believe these days, but the only thing that saved the studio was the Pentagon hiring it for propaganda purposes during WWII.

I mention this because we have a long love of anthropomorphism and most unused to comics usually associate the genre with childhood pleasures like Alice Through The Looking Glass or Winnie The Pooh. But don't be deceived: like so much anthropomorphism in comics (MAUS!), BLACKSAD is decidedly adult in nature.

All the characters are bipedal animals working, living and loving like we do and they can be equally vicious and flawed. BLACKSAD VOL 1 contained one particularly powerful story involving racism, segregation and lynching using each creature's colour to clever effect, while its star, P.I. John Blacksad, is a big black cat… with a patch of white on his chin. What I inferred from that is here - for the first time, I think - expressly explored when a hitch-hiking John is forced to endure the charmless verbal diarrhoea of a truck-driving macaw.

BLACKSAD books are all period pieces: the Cadillac on the cover isn't a classic yet, it's current. One glance at the glorious, dark grey spread preceding the story itself instantly reminds one of Will Eisner works like A CONTRACT WITH GOD set fairly and squarely in a bustling, fully functioning, very specific environment.

The level of craft on Disney-trained Guarnido's part is mesmerising. When it comes to architecture, both exterior and interior, Guarnido is on a par with animator Hayao Miyazaki for detail. His line is seductive - both sharp and smooth - making it impossible not to linger on the curves of wood, the folds in bunched drapes, the intricately patterned rugs or even the general desk clutter which you'd normally not even register.

In BLACKSAD: A SILENT HELL there was a sunlit courtyard cafe dappled in leafy shadow, a funereal street scene populated by dozens more mourners than you'd think you could fit on a page, and even a thirty-page art class in the back, Guarnido explaining his compositional decisions through preparatory sketches and paintings - enlightening for aspiring artists of any genre, not just anthropomorphism. Here there's a sunny, open airport, a grand old railway station foyer and one hell of a motorbike for Blacksad to stand astride on.

His clothes are so slick, sleek and attractive that you could actively consider them well pressed, and the expressions on each of these creatures are exquisitely realised each and every time - animal versions of our own, exaggerated with such energy that you'll be grinning from cover to cover.

It begins with a moment of bravado by the private swimming pool of author Chad Lowell, a lion who's spent two years on his latest manuscript in the days when there often was only one - no back-ups. His supposed friend and fellow writer, poet Abraham Greenberg, ducks then holds Chad's head underwater, then sets fire to his own poetry before lobbing Chad's scroll at the pool. The red-check-shirted Bison thinks this is funny.

"No guts, no glory, Chad. Give your story a happy ending for once, and leave that roll of paper in some toilet, where people can put it to good use."

Chad catches the script - just - but the expression under his mane, dripping with water, says it all.

John Blacksad, meanwhile, is considering a change of career when his sharp eyes and act of kindness at an airport earn him the respect and trust of a wealthy, outbound bull. He needs someone to drive his expensive yellow Cadillac back to his house in Tulsa, so hands John its keys.

"Ya seem like a straight shooter, son - the kind who stays outta trouble."

And he does seem that but we, by now, know differently. Blacksad's a trouble-magnet, his sense of fair play his undoing, and the raw iron filings heading his way are those loose-cannon writers. Bloody writers, eh?

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