Wednesday, December 21, 2016

BLACKSAD by Juan Díaz Canales

This volume collects the first three graphic novels in the award-winning Blacksad series, which follows the adventures of cool cat private detective John Blacksad as he navigates the 1950's, fighting crime, righting wrongs, and bedding down some sexy pussycats while he's at it. It reads like the classic hard-boiled tales of Chandler, Hammet, and Spillane, with many familiar genre conventions on display.

In the debut story, Somewhere Within The Shadows, John investigates the violent death of a beautiful actress, who also happens to be an old flame of his. It's a decent intro to the character and the world, even if it's a little too simple and pretty derivative by design.

The next story, Arctic Nation, is an overall improvement with higher stakes and deeper themes, as Blacksad searches for a missing child in a town brimming with racial tension. It's the best story in the collection.

And the final story, Red Soul, finds our hero in the middle of a conspiracy involving Communist witch-hunts and the nuclear fear that was everywhere during that time period. I like that Canales tries to expand his stories beyond just detective tales and tackle bigger issues.

Although storywise there really isn't much that's new and original here, the real star is the drop-dead gorgeous, Eisner-Award-winning artwork by Juanjo Guarnido, who laces every page with lovingly detailed watercolors. The whole thing is a real pleasure to look at.


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