Review: Blacksad - Amarillo

The third collection of Blacksad by Juan Diaz Canales and Juanjo Guarnido is out, and you should all be praising the idea of a benevolent god that something like this book can exist. Blacksad: Amarillo isn’t better than the first two collections, but it’s still an incredibly solid entry in an already stellar series. John Blacksad gets hired to drive a car to Tulsa by a rich man, but he gets sidetracked by a douchebag Beat poet and his weak-willed friend who aspires to a more measurable success than his friend. There’s a circus with its own code of laws, a racist parrot truck driver, and a biker gang composed entirely of billy goats. Basically, it’s everything you love about noir movies and everything you love about Blacksad, and it’s back again, in top form.

Blacksad - Amarillo Cover 10.8.14Blacksad is the poster child for a comic that takes a variety of things that have no business working together, or making any kind of narrative sense, and making them sing. And listen, I’m saying all this as a man with a personal, long-standing vendetta against cats (all kinds, no, I don’t care if it acts kind of like a dog), but John Blacksad is a man I could aspire to be. Where other, lesser books tend to make animal characters into caricatures for children, Blacksad renders the animals in such a realistic fashion that you almost don’t notice they’re animals after a while. It penetrates on a subconscious level, with the animals corresponding to personality types; Weeks is a weasel, Neal the lawyer is a laughing hyena, the William Burroughs-stand-in is a pink flamingo. It’s rarely a one-to-one comparison, and it becomes less of a gimmick for people to hang a hat on the series than a flavor to the storytelling. I mean, if you’ve got a guy who can draw animals like Guarnido, why the hell wouldn’t you let him do that all the time?

The art in Blacksad has always been phenomenal. You don’t need to take my word for it, just look at a cover of any of the collections, you’ll see dynamic colors, interesting layouts, minimalist designs... this book has it all. The only complaint I have about this collection that could tangentially relate to the art is that there was a lack of action set pieces in this volume. Any of the other collections, Guarnido gets to go nuts and let loose a little bit with a gunfight or a chase sequence. There are a few of those in this volume, but it straddled the line between being a little too long and a little too short, so it left those sequences out, left Eva a little underdeveloped, and so on.

A unique critique for Blacksad for me is the quality of translation. I don’t speak Spanish, so I’ve obviously never read the series the way it was originally presented, but the business of translated comics rests on a literal translation that’s turned into a colloquial translation. This volume’s colloquial translating was done by the one, the only, Neal Adams. That’s a big name to attach to a project, but it’s also a name that doesn’t bring to mind a lot of writing cred. However, the translation in this volume is very good. There’s only a few stutters, but nothing that impedes the enjoyment or understanding of the material. He’s done good work by Diaz Canales and Guarnido, and that’s good by me.

The Blacksad stories shine by virtue of their self-contained nature. The only downside of this collection is that it’s a hardcover collection and it’ll cost you a little bit more. The upside is that it’s a great story and it’s beautiful to look at, so the hardcover deserves a spot on your shelf.

Score: 5/5 

Writer: Juan Díaz Canales Artist: Juanjo Guarnido Publisher: Dark Horse Comics Price: $17.99 Release Date: 10/8/14 – LCS, 10/28/14 – Bookstores Format: Hardcover; Print/Digital