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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Blacksad. Juan Diaz Canales (Writer), Juanjo Guarnido (Art), Anthya Flores, Patricia Rivera (Translation). Dark Horse Books (2010)

Outstanding collection of stories about a brilliantly re-imagined pulp version of 1950's America. John Blacksad, a private investigator, becomes involved with the death of a former lover, a nasty outbreak of white supremacist activity and with the tangled politics of nuclear paranoia and anti-communism. The stories are sharp and crisp, the action is hard and furious, the reveals are brilliantly staged. The atmosphere is noir, nearly everyone is on the make or trying to be, wealth, power and greed drive the plots. The cast are superb, a collection of losers trying to be winners and winners trying to prevent anyone else from winning, a sprinkling of those trying to do the right thing, even if they are no longer sure what it is.
Initially the most striking thing about the stories is that the cast are all human shaped animals, this only serves to emphasise the humanity of the cast. They are not animals pretending to be humans, they are humans parading their animal possibilities.
The astonishing art by Juanjo Guarnido creates a large and expressive cast, rarely has body language been so eloquent, the facial expressions are a joy. The panels are full of details that serve to add depth to the story, they create a entirely convincing context for the actions of the cast.
The trappings of the pulp stories and the noir films are so easy to imitate that they verge on the meaningless, Juan Diaz Canales has captured the bruised romance that underlies the originals. The struggle not to be overwhelmed by the nihilism that florishs with overrunning greed is central, to believe that there is a point to trying to do the right thing. There is a savage price to be paid for this and it is extracted in full in these stories. Everyone is compromised in some way, how they respond to it is at the heart of their actions.
These are stories with a real heartbeat, they draw in the reader and make the reader care abbout the cast. The mysterious spark of creativity is buring brightly in this wonderful book, a triumph.

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