Blacksad holds a variety of emotions for me. The noir comic is saturated with painful plot-lines– the types of stories we are afraid to read but cannot resist. Perhaps this seductive quality is what makes it such potent noir; it refuses to compromise itself or resolve in any sort of ‘happily ever after’ fashion. At first glance, I assumed that Blacksad would be a silly comic, but as I delved into the masterful script (by Diaz Canales) the animal caricatures and bold colors began to fade into bleak reality. I’ve already reviewed the flagship hardcover on noirwhale (you can read it here), so this will be a review of the newly released chapter “A Silent Hell.”
Blacksad: A Silent Hell takes place in the Jazz-fueled south, a setting which isn’t frequented enough by the noir genre. This chapter is easily the most complex, as each page introduces new characters, backgrounds, and plot-lines. Yet again Blacksad is quickly embroiled in long rotten secrets and hedged by liars. In the relatively short book, we’re witness to an incredibly visceral drama– and many of the splash pages are some of the most cinematic I’ve seen in any comic. It begs a more effective medium of expression, a film or a soundtrack– something that could lend a voice to the crooning blues or movement to the debauchery of Mardi Gras. A Silent Hell‘s weakness unfortunately is in its complexity, I found myself re-reading many pages in an attempt to make sense of the quickly spiraling plot. If you can’t read it in one sitting, you may find yourself lost by the final page.
We cannot overlook the impressive watercolors within A Silent Hell— just as the plot becomes more complex with each additional layer, the pages are delicate masterpieces that speak countless patient hours sacrificed by Juanjo Guarnido. From the little I understand about the difficulties of working with the watercolor medium, my appreciation for this beautiful book is boundless. The latter-half of the hardcover collection that I own is entirely dedicated to exploring the creation of each page and the tedious concentration and effort such a project demands. We are fortunate to have a master in our midst.
Both Blacksad hardcovers are prized in my personal library, and hold a place of prominence on the shelf– If you were initially turned-off by the anthropomorphic aspects of this international bestseller, please reconsider. You won’t regret sharing in such an unforgettable noir epic.