Blacksad by Juan Diaz Canales might be one of the most perfect noir graphic novels I have ever read. It is a blend of noir and the 1940s and 1950s aesthetic with the “Sam Spade” type detective novel.
John Blacksad is a black cat in an anthropomorphized world. The species of each of the characters reflect what kind of role they play in the story. John, a black cat, is a private detective dealing with a share of beautiful and dangerous women, thugs, mafia, and cigarettes. The first of the three stories included in Blacksad Vol. 1 is about the murder of the famous movie actress, Natalia Willford. Someone John knows quite well. This story is a classic tale of deception and power struggles and the great “who done it.”.
“I’m out of the game, but you’re not. This is my proposition: Eliminate the murdering son of a bitch and I’ll personally cover your back.”
The next story in this collection is called Arctic Nation and is about race relations within the different animal communities. John acquires a client, named Miss Grey, who wants John to find a missing little girl. No one wants to stick up for this little girl, including the little girl’s mom, because the little girl is of mixed race. John sticks his paws into a tumultuous storm of race relations and deals with a KKK-like group that has no problem killing people that get in their way. Someone has to speak for the child, and John is the cat to do it.
“One day, not far from now, the world will again be under the control of the proud white race. That which god set on Earth to control all of others.”
The last story in the collection is Red Soul, and it finds our titular hero amidst conspiracies surrounding communist witch-hunts and scares of the 1950s.
The great thing about these stories is that even though they have characters played by different animals, it isn’t cute and cuddly. Blacksad is dark and brooding. The stories are magnificent, there is a reason why this is such a respected graphic novel series. John is an anti-hero. You can dislike him intensely as a character, but cheer him on as a detective. I loved Blacksad and am looking forward to finishing it up soon. Check it out.
Read Blacksad by Juan Díaz Canales & Juanjo Guarnido