From the indelible pen of of Jonathan Miller
Blacksad: A Silent Hell HC
Written by: Juan Diaz Canales
Art by: JuanjoGuarnido
Published by Dark Horse
John Blacksad is back on the case.
Actually, he’s been back on the case since 2010. Just not in English.
Shortly after Dark Horse published an anthology edition of the first three anthropomorphic detective stories, the fourth story L'Enfer, Le Silence (to give it its original title) was published, but only now has it made it into English.
This time, Blacksad is in New Orleans investigating the disappearance of a piano player by a former record producer, in the last stages of terminal illness. As with all good pulp stories, Blacksad is quickly warned off (more than once) and resolves only to push deeper into a world of jazz music, drug addiction, estranged families and voodoo. With a good helping of actual and threatened violence.
On the writing front, this is another excellent noir tale. Full of a good range of sleazy characters, double and triples crosses that keep you guessing until the end (and quite some time thereafter, as I’m still slightly puzzling over what happened).
Again, the real star of the book is the outstanding watercolour artwork of Guarnido. Painstakingly, detailed in sleazy clubs, busy high streets and shade covered cafes. Brilliantly dynamic in characters and looking exceedingly painful when someone starts swinging a baseball bat.
The book is rounded off with a couple of short stories and a large section of the fabulous artwork to give you a bit more bang for your buck.
Goliath by Tom Gauld (published by Drawn & Quarterly), my pick of 2012 to date. Tom Gauld is brilliant. He writes and draws cartoons for the Guardian, such as
His full book Goliath is a take on the Old Testament story of David and Goliath, but from Goliath’s point of view. Rather than the terror of the official version, Gauld’s Goliath is an amiable chap, who would much rather do admin than guard duty, and generally prefers the quiet life. He’s not that happy when his call up comes, and the rest of the book is spent pondering exactly what he is doing, before the inevitable outcome.
If you are looking for kick ass fights, they are not here. What’s served up is thoughtful, humorous and sad, with beautiful, elegant artwork to accompany the story. Highly recommended.
Another new discovery is Mouse Guard by David Petersen (published by Archaia). Having read Usagi Yojimbo last year, I was quite happy to check out another animal based comic. In these three books (Autumn, Winter and Legends of the Guard – the last being an anthology of stories) we follow the noble Mouse Guard. The premise is that mice are too small to fit in with an awful lot of the rest of the animal kingdom, so a Guard has developed to help the mice survive against the odds. The Guard is a noble calling, but there is conspiracy within and danger without to be faced, and well as an encounter with the Black Axe, a figure of legend amongst the guard.
Petersen’s pages are chocked full of detailed, heavily referenced art work. Creatures and architecture have a life of their own. Autumn, basks in gold and brown, while Winter is bleak and harsh. Plots are satisfyingly rich and intriguing, and battle well executed. Again, recommended.
Paul Grist has placed Jack Staff on hiatus (boo) but instead brings us Mudman, published by Image (yay!). I often think this harks back to simpler comic times. Mudman is bright, colourful, funny and with a teenage superhero, is an awful lot of what superhero comics used to be, but now aren’t. Grist has dispensed with the multi thread elements of Jack Staff as our awkward teen hero struggles to come to terms with his new powers and talk to girls. If you wish for superhero comics of yore, get this; it’s great.
One book that I wasn’t so keen on was Habibi by Craig Thompson (published by Top Shelf). This tells the tale of an orphaned boy and girl who have to depend on each other to survive the Arabic state they live in and looks at the shared heritage of Christianity and Islam. Visually, it is beautiful. Clearly a labour of love for the author and artist, but I found several elements of the plot unpleasant, particularly what the central characters must do to survive. There are moments of humour, but not enough to lift the rather bleak mood in this reviewer’s opinion. The book does seem to divide opinion, but is not something I would care to revisit.
And for now at least that’s your lot!