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.

Doctober 29: …Just Drawn That Way

As it is with most geeky entertainment genres, Star Trek has its fingers in many different consumer-friendly pies, including the extremely lucrative comic book world. Oh, what a tangled web we weave when we delve into that particular collector paradise. I’m barely an amateur when it comes to comics; I have certain favorites that I visit now and again, usually in graphic novel format, but I’m by no means a capital-c “Collector.” And when it comes to Trek comics, I’m even worse. I think I own three TNG comics and one DS9 comic. The DS9 and one of the TNG comics were gifts, and the other two TNG ones I bought at conventions because…ready? Dr. Crusher was on the covers. As Comic Book Guy would no doubt say, “Worst. Collector. Ever.”

Then there’s this “comic,” which I think only barely makes the comic categorization by being comic-book size and being drawn. However, as you can see from the following pictures, the interior pages are almost coloring book-esque in their black line art and utter lack of any other color. Regardless of what this actually is, I can honestly say that this is one of the more delightful non-action figure collectible anomalies I own.

I assume that this company, Personality Comics, released an issue for all of “The New Crew,” but this is the only one I’ve ever seen. This one, in fact, didn’t come out until after Gates McFadden had returned to the show for the third season. But rather than blather on any further, I’m going to cut this short and let the photos speak for themselves. And believe me, they have some rather…unique things to say…

BookBin2010: The Killing Joke

I feel slightly guilty posting The Killing Joke as a BookBin entry, considering the fact that it’s just a single issue comic book…nothing long like some of Alan Moore’s other works that have found their way to the lair, like Watchmen or V for Vendetta. Then again, I did say at the end of my post about V for Vendetta that I wanted to read this one next. So, there you go.

This time around, though, I’m going to have to say that the main draw of this story wasn’t Moore’s writing. Instead, it is the hands-down amazing artwork of Brian Bolland. Right from the very first panel of this comic book, I was in love with Bolland’s dark artistic stylings. He offers clean lines, gorgeous details, and a wicked sense of how to make even the mundane sinister. If you are a fan of graphic media, you need to witness Bolland’s visual take on the great batty god of DC Comics and his vile, vituperative, villainous foe, the Joker.

One word of caution: Apparently, the recently released 20th anniversary edition of this comic is the one you should seek out, rather than the original 1988 release. From what I’ve read, that release has some funky coloring that Bolland corrected for the anniversary edition. I’ve read some complaints about the color change from comic book purists who preferred the original, old school colors, but I have to say, the coloring in the anniversary edition is beautiful and very complementary to the artwork and the story.

As for the story itself…meh. Maybe I had that reaction because I read the book while extremely tired, but I didn’t really feel any sort of wow factor from this possible origin story for the Joker. I liked the dark undercurrent of the story, always roiling right at the surface. I also liked this dark take on the Joker. As someone who grew up thinking of this character as only the buffoonish Cesar Romero portrayal from the awesome Adam West show, I liked seeing this character in a far more successfully sinister light (I say successfully here because I really didn’t think the Heath Ledger portrayal of Joker as psychotic villain was successful at all…sorry).

But there was something…I don’t know. Something missing? Something off? Maybe it was the Barbara Gordon portion of the plot that really turned me off to the story. Definitely gave me an unhappy WTF feeling, that’s for sure. But this has been my complaint about all of the Moore-written graphic novels that I’ve read so far; there’s something that always rubs me the wrong way and leaves me feeling…meh. Again, though, this Joker is just awesomely cracked, and I believe that’s primarily thanks to how Bolland depicts him throughout the book.

Final Verdict: I don’t know that I would want this book for the story itself, but Bolland’s line work made up for the places where the story let me down. I’m not going to rush out and buy The Killing Joke (although I have already added it to my wish list), but I think that at some point it will probably become a part of my collection. So, yeah, it’s a keeper. Perhaps next I’ll try to find Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns…that should keep me busy until the July 6 release of Batwoman: Elegy.