If You Like…
- Film Noir
- Jazz music
- Mardi Gras!
- Animal characters
Then You’ll Like…
Blacksad: A Silent Hell by Juan Diaz Canales and Juanjo Guarnido
Way back in the day, when the first seedlings of this blog were beginning to sprout (September), I posted a review of a graphic novel called Blacksad. I was introduced to this European style, European-produced comic during college and was floored by the brilliant artistry, characterization, and playing with history.
If you have never heard of Blacksad, please take a moment to read my review HERE to give you a quick idea of what makes this series so brilliant and worth a read.
Thanks to the popularity of the first three volumes (which Dark Horse combined into one when it was brought over to America), they’ve started translating and releasing each individual volume that gets released in France. Therefore, you won’t have to wait too long! But like all great artists, Juanjo Guarnido and Juan Diaz Canales cannot be rushed. They recently released Blacksad: Amarillo this past October in the U.S., and there’s no rumors yet on the release of the next volume.
But today, I wanted to take a quick look at the first of the sequels to the three-volume collection, titled Blacksad: A Silent Hell.
Down in the Old Bayou
This new chapter is John Blacksad’s life takes him to New Orleans, “The Big Easy.” He’s there with his weasel reporter friend Weekly, and what starts as an interview with a famous blues singer turns into a rescue mission when a jazz star goes missing, and a conspiracy surrounding the famous record label he belongs to.
It’s about as colorful as you’d expect from a New Orleans setting. What’s more, Canales and Guarnido decided to set it during Mardi Gras. Sebastian is the artist that Blacksad is searching for, and this poor dog is burdened with a terrible secret and a heroin addiction.
However, I especially loved the pages that were contrasted. Just like opposites on a color wheel, they played with contrasting colors brilliantly. Any scene involving Mr. Faust and voodoo were thrust into a world of deep oranges and reds. Consequently, the flashback scenes were mirrored in blue, both as an obvious indicator and to set the tone of regret and failure.
My favorite scene was near the climax of the story, when Sebastian is playing for an audience in a bar, revealing the big secret behind the conspiracy that also happened to be the subject for his last song. As he plays, the blue tones of the flashback are slowly replaced by shades of orange and neutral tones on his face. It’s as though the burden is washing off of him, and he can feel free again, even if the reveal was a highly risky move.
It’s scenes like these that makes this graphic novel series special. The style is a far cry from the hard lines and close-ups that so often emulate from western and Japanese comics. Once again, Guarnido employs a fascinating combination of watercolor and light lines, maintaining that wild animal feel to the setting (get it?) and a false sense of softness and safety. The reader is most definitely not safe in figuring out where the story will go. I’m also still impressed by the amount of detail that is present in every panel. It’s mind-boggling! These details are numerous, from the style of clothing to the labels on bottles, and every spectator in the backgrounds drawn with care. With such attention to this detail, it makes the story feel more alive, more real, drawing you in even closer. Call it the noir inspiration, but the Blacksad series are some of the beautifully rendered mysteries I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading. They’re definitely one of those books that you’ll return to and discover something new on each page with each re-read.
Pick Up Blacksad: A Silent Hell
So, if you liked the original Blacksad or have been craving something beautiful to read, stop what you’re doing and head to the nearest comic book store. I can usually find copies of this series at Barnes and Noble as well, and even more so on Amazon. Thanks to Dark Horse’s distribution and Blacksad’s growing, devoted fanbase, I’m excited to see what comes next for our titular hero.
Will Make You Feel Like: Diving into your old mystery collection again
Music to Listen to While Reading: Jazz and blues
Publisher: Dargaud (France), Dark Horse Books (US)