Juan Díaz Canales (writer), Juanjo Guarnido (artist)
English Translation published 2010

Premise: This volume collects the first three Blacksad albums, each one a self-contained story. They follow the adventures of private investigator John Blacksad as he stumbles through surviving in the darker parts of the 1950's, trying to get to the truth behind murder, abduction and corruption along the way. He's also a six-foot cat, and the world is entirely populated with anthropomorphic animals.

I absolutely loved this book. I'm not sure that it's for everyone, though, so let me try to explain what I loved about it. (Please Note: this is a graphic novel for mature readers. The mostly naked corpse on page one should be a tip-off.)

I love noir. When someone really nails the sweet spot balanced between melodrama, cynicism, honor, the chance of sweetness and a sense of fatalism, I am a happy camper. Blacksad takes its inspiration directly from the French interest in American film noir, and the three stories in this collection hit all the right buttons for me. You have the tough detective, cops of varying morality, dames in trouble and dangerous love interests. It flirts with history (and historical happenings) without committing, and that's just fine with me. I really liked that it's like this world, only not. I also liked the rhythm of the writing a lot.

The writing is stylized in all the ways I like, but it's the art that lifts this to the level of masterpiece. It rides that perfect line between detail and the stylization necessary to convey emotion. Those moments that I could clearly read the characters' thoughts by the looks on their faces; those are what I really adored.

I liked the way this book dealt with social issues like race and the Red Scare. It both explores intriguing nuances of the situation as it was, and translates the situation to the animal world, creating all new problems and repercussions.

Most of all I loved the characters. I love Blacksad, a quintessential noir PI, harsh and brave and cynical while still being fragile and idealistic. The supporting characters are drawn with such care and character that I felt that I knew each immediately.

If you love noir, if you love gorgeous artwork, if you've always wanted to see anthropomorphic animals deal with sex and violence, check out Blacksad.

5 Stars – An Awesome Book


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