Review – Blacksad: Somewhere Within the Shadows
Blacksad: Somewhere Within the Shadows is a 2016 fable comic written by Juan Diaz Canales and illustrated by Juanjo Guarnido. Published by Darguad.
Pronounced dead at the scene, the concrete jungle of New York mourns and scorns a beloved actress after her cold-blooded murder. One man is on the case to catch the killer; Private Detective and coincidentally her former lover, John Blacksad. With a personal grudge and a city of wild animals out to stop him, justice is hidden Somewhere Within the Shadows. Also, he’s a cat!
Even if anthropomorphic animals aren’t your thing, you can’t help but admire the gritty details in the designs of these colourful cartoon characters. Guarnido is able to portray and balance a multitude of thematic scenes such as comic relief and crippling despair or primal fury combating intellectual charm.
The pages of this comic are coloured like a sunny Sunday morning; faded red wine and smeared lipstick from a wild Saturday night, steamed over with the smoke of lit cigarettes and stained fresh coffee. Blissfully warming even its hazy agitated complexion, you can’t help but be wrapped up in the cruel world of John Blacksad.
One gripe I have is that the characters refer to themselves both as human and animals. This could be a cheeky jab at mankind as a whole being more animalistic than humane in their day to day lives but that only works in continuity sake or with a clear idea of a human being. In this case however, mankind is absent from the setting so it comes off more like a glitch in the system.
Now that I’ve got that out of the way, back to praising this wonderful City of Animals fable noir! At face value alone, Blacksad: Somewhere Within the Shadows is an outstandingly grizzly crime story with anthropomorphic animals. Take a deeper dissection of this world that Canales has created and you uncover beautifully intricate characters in a very bleak but familiar setting alongside a gripping satirical narrative laced with hierarchical social food chains and brilliant stereotypical character casting, for better or for worse. This Animal Farm has moved to the big city.
In conclusion, Blacksad: Somewhere Within the Shadows is an impassioned masterpiece in every way. The premise of a walking talking cat detective solving cases alone is enough to scratch the itch for any fan of detective novels looking for a unique noir story. Once you add the gorgeous artwork and James Ellroy-esque writing styles of Guarnido & Canales, you know you are in for something special.
The heavily detailed and creative art combined with charmingly sophisticated storytelling, characters and dialogue makes this triumphant social satire comic a must have for anyone who has ever collected a comic. Blacksad leaves you begging for more and thankfully, this isn’t his last case.
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