BookBin2016: Blacksad: Amarillo


Back once more with another graphic novel from the Blacksad series by writer Juan Diaz Canales and artist Juanjo Guarnido. We haven’t had a new novel from this duo since their 2012 offering A Silent Hell. I gave that novel a bit of a lackluster review in comparison to my ebullient review of the first Blacksad collection.

I’m afraid that my review of this latest novel, Amarillo, is going to be even less enthusiastic. Guarnido is still producing stunning artwork for this series, but I feel as though perhaps Canales has reached his creative limit with this character’s story. I honestly found this tale trite and dull. Perhaps it’s because of my ongoing struggle to get into detective stories, but I ultimately think that it’s because there wasn’t really a story worth telling here. Perhaps it’s either time to let our private dick retire or take up residence with a different storyteller. However, I would like for Guarnido to continue being his artist. Guarnido’s art continues to be top shelf.

Final Verdict: I’ll hang on to this one for the artwork (another from my own collection!), but I seriously doubt whether I would give another novel from this series a go.

BookBin2012: Blacksad: A Silent Hell


I know, I know: It’s no longer officially 2012. However, I did finish this book last year (ooh, that feels so weird to write), so it still qualifies…even if I was too lazy to get here to post the review before the calendar switched.

You might recall that a couple of years ago, I read and completely fell in love with the first Blacksad collection. Of course, the moment I learned there was a new book, I didn’t even hesitate. I hit that one-click order button on faster than you can say anthropomorphic animals.

This time, rather than being a collection of stories, Blacksad: A Silent Hell is only one story, plus a couple of somewhat lackluster shorts at the end. However, the main story is full of that film noir fury that made the first collection so enjoyable and memorable for me. Also, it’s another chance to enjoy the luscious artwork of Juanjo Guarnido. Honestly, denizens, he’s one of the most amazing artists working in the field today. Each panel is amazing, and honestly I believe he even bested his previous Blacksad work with some incredible artistry for A Silent Hell. Gorgeous. Simply gorgeous.

There’s not much else to say. It’s a gritty detective tale, this time set in New Orleans. I have to admit, I did enjoy the fact that it was set in the Big Easy. I enjoyed even more my own personal “Where’s Waldo” moment when I spotted a character in the foreground of one of the crowded street scenes who was obviously based on the physical characteristics of a very famous New Orleans literary figure. I’ll leave it at that. But I’ll be sure to make a note of his appearance in one of my Big Chief writing tablets. (A nice cold Dr. Nut to the first person to crack this code.)

Guarnido gave an enormous level of effort in getting details of the city and its outlying areas as close to recognizable as possible. So close that at times I could almost hear the rattle of the street cars as they lumbered through the Magazine district or the raging jazz and blues as they tumbled out of open doors and into the deepest corners of the French Quarter. If I haven’t made this point yet to you, please note: Guarnido’s artwork makes every page worth studying, absorbing, enjoying, and finally returning to over and over again.

Final Verdict: Definitely a keeper, already nestled onto my shelf, right next to its “big brother” Blacksad. And thus ends my reading efforts for 2012. I made it to 40 books in 2012, which was 11 shy of my record since I started writing reviews here at the lair and 6 shy of my reads from last year. I’m okay with this. I’m less okay with the fact that I only read 6 books from my own collection while I read 30 from the library. If I’d read 30 from my own collection, I could have almost completely obliterated at least two of the stacks of books piled up around my nightstand! So I’m going to make a concerted effort this year to again focus on my own collection. Is that my resolution? I suppose it is.

Read on, denizens. Read on…

BookBin2011: Blacksad

Palate-cleansing time, denizens. I needed something a little less dense to recuperate from the exhaustion of slogging through my last BookBin read. So while at our local library this past weekend (where I was ironically looking for The Girl Who Played With Fire), I strolled over to the graphic novel section.

[Loba Tangent: I’d like to point out that our library has set up a corner designed as though they knew one day I would walk through their doors: graphic novels, right next to science fiction, right next to horror. I could kiss those crazy, prescient librarians.]

I noticed a couple of new titles since my last visit, including an oversized book with a bizarre name and a gorgeous and confusing cover. Plus, the font choices and placement screamed homage to 40s-era noir film posters, which also intrigued me, especially when combined with the anthropomorphic punim glaring at me through the ciggie smoke.

Blacksad was a remarkable find, denizens, and one we can thank Dark Horse Comics for bringing to the U.S. market. It took a while for these comics to be translated from their original Spanish into English; in fact, the third offering in this collection had never appeared in translated form until this compendium. But I can assure you, it was worth the wait.

Author Juan Diaz Canales and artist Juanjo Guarnido combined efforts to bring to the page a gloriously gritty send-up to classic noir tropes of a bygone era…with an animalistic twist. All of the characters, including P.I. John Blacksad, are animals: cats, dogs, polar bears, deer, magpies, horses…all drawn in ways that are eerily human. At times the quality of expression and movement is disconcerting, but the overall effect is stunningly satisfying.

In fact, I’d go so far as to say that it’s worth it to pick up a copy of Blacksad solely for Guarnido’s artwork, full of enough detail to ground it in the reality of its chosen time frame, but presented in these rich watercolor diasporas that give each tableau a hauntingly memorable quality.

Final Verdict: High-quality hard-cover collection of fast-paced, well-written stories presented through some of the most gorgeous, gritty illustrations I’ve ever seen in comic book form? Definitely at the top of my wish list for ASAP addition to my library.