- Save 10% on selected children’s books, compliments of Amazon Family Promotion exclusive for Prime members .
Blacksad: A Silent Hell Hardcover – 20 Jul 2012
|New from||Used from|
Special offers and product promotions
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
If you are a seller for this product, would you like to suggest updates through seller support?
What other items do customers buy after viewing this item?
Top customer reviews
Great writing and great artwork cannot be beat!
After resigning myself to a seemingly interminable wait for the third Blacksad story (originally published in 2005, finally appearing translated from its original French in 2010, courtesy of DH), I was thrilled to stumble across a few pages of what looked to be a new instalment several years back on the site Blacksadmania. Now, following its original publication in 2010, 'A Silent Hell' has arrived, and it is well worth the wait.
I'll admit from the outset that the primary reason I love the Blacksad graphic novels is the art rather than the stories - something not entirely unexpected since several major definitions of film noir, from which the series takes its inspiration, have preferred to examine it as a style rather than a particular narrative or even generic mode. The stories typically lack the labyrinthine plotting usually associated with the form - 'A Silent Hell' is much less a whodunnit than a whydunnit, though there are a couple of unresolved mysteries in there that have really been playing on my mind since I finished the book. Though this volume tells us less about Blacksad and his past than some of the previous stories, it has enough shocks, twists and red herrings to keep you hooked in. Juan Díaz Canales' dialogue really pops and flows and conveys the mood of the story well, whether indulging in a few much-needed laughs at the expense of the hapless and rather seedy journalist Weekly (consistently one of the most fun characters and a nice foil for Blacksad) or unveiling the tragic abuse of power and money so often a part of Blacksad's world. For the sake of those familiar with the series, I won't say any more on that front as it is better to come to the story with minimal prior knowledge.
The art is, as ever, awe-inspiringly beautiful, and an object lesson in conveying a host of clear and dynamic facial expressions without resorting to exagerrated and increasingly abstracted levels of cartooniness. The extraordinary level of detail in Guarnido's backgrounds is a marvel to behold - the spaces the characters move through feel solid and truly 'inhabited' without detracting from the main actions and events of each panel and page (Guarnido knows precisely when to introduce more firmly defined and more elaborate details in order to establish setting and when to soften his lines in order to fix our attention on the foreground). Just witness the sheer variety of design and expression in the numerous incidental characters wandering the streets of Canales and Guarnido's New Orleans. These are not anonymous crowds of identikit stick figures who exist purely to convey busy-ness or simply to react to events concerning the principal characters, they are individuals captured in the midst of their daily conversations, business and errands, and the nature of Blacksad's universe (populated, for the uninitiated, by a host of anthropomorphic mammals, reptiles, birds and amphibians) is such that Guarnido succinctly expresses each major and minor character's nature through the physiognomy of the animal he selects. It's less a simple shorthand than an expert grasp of how to delineate character with remarkable economy, humour and energy. On subsequent readings and throughout the progression of the series there are aspects of his style that I am less fond of, such as his tendency to show certain characters (especially Blacksad and those with 'subtler' and more humanoid features) with their mouths frequently closed as they talk unless angry, distressed, laughing, etc., and the more humanoid quality of female characters designated as young and attractive (which, though something of a safety net, would not necessarily be a problem were it not for the fact that it leaves several of the principal female characters across the series as a whole looking very similar in face and build). Yet the strengths of Guarnido's watercolour art generally outweigh these gripes. It is particularly interesting after the murky and muted colours of the earlier Blacksad stories to see him working with a much more varied palette. Just compare the sequence at the beginning of the first volume, 'Somewhere within the Shadows', where Blacksad sits brooding in his cluttered office with a double-page spread where we are every bit as surprised as the great detective himself to stumble into the middle of a Mardi Gras parade. Stunningly intricate effects that astonished on their appearance within the occasional panel in earlier stories, such as the dappled shadows cast on figures walking down tree-lined streets in the sunshine, run throughout entire scenes here. You could spend hours losing yourself in the detail, lighting and texture effects across just a few pages, and that alone is justification for owning this book rather than simply hiring it from a library.
This is to say nothing of the second half of the book, which presents a beautifully written (and translated, lest we forget the fantastic work done by Katie LaBarbera and Bart Beaty) commentary by Guarnido detailing the processes behind his colour-work for each sequence. Written with warmth and intensive (but never boring or dry) insight into the creative challenges and choices presented by the story and illustrated with plenty of sketches that greatly add to an appreciation of the hard work involved, this is a fascinating addition to the volume.
If you don't already feel spoiled by this point, the book ends with two short stories never before published in translation, including a friendly face that fans of the series will remember from earlier instalments.
All in all, this is a magnificent volume that rewards multiple readings, provides brilliant value for money and is beautifully put together by Dark Horse. An absolute delight from start to finish.
For those new to this series - and really, you can just start right here rather than pick up the previous book - this is the world of Raymond Chandler and James Cain; that is, noir. But with animals. Every character is an animal-headed humanoid doing the things humans would normally do. And the book does hit all the noir buttons - the gritty detective, the dames, the drugs, the smoky bars and boozy nights, the fights and deaths and guns. If you love noir, comics, and animals this is your book.
But my problem with this book, like the first book, is the lack of originality in the characters and story. Blacksad is your average gumshoe: he's tough, he's street smart, he's tortured and angry - and he's unoriginal. Same goes for every character in the book. The evil rich guy, his entitled smug son, the working class depicted as honest, salt of the earth heroes, and so on. And the story of finding the pianist is barely touched on because it's over really soon and the subplot of the masked killer is easily solved by page 3 - it's as obvious to figure out as an 80s Columbo TV movie where the bad guy is always the most famous person in the cast. Then the real story begins which takes the form of a staple of the noir genre - the abuse of power and the corruption it brings. The private eye against those in power, the little guy versus the big guy! Etc...
The finale of the book is a poorly chosen plot point mainly because it relies heavily upon an artistic form comics cannot replicate: music. I won't go too much into it but suffice it to say that not since Alan Moore's atrocious "LXG: 1969" has there been such an unconvincingly written use of music in a comic book. And it's anti-climactic, coming off as more than a bit contrived. It may have seemed poetical in the planning of this story but reads very clumsily in the execution.
The art is faultless and every page - every panel! - is a master-class in illustration. From the simplest of scenes like Blacksad interviewing a drug dealer in a run-down bar to full page street scenes, Juanjo Guarnido brings it every time. For a noir story, the New Orleans in Mardi Gras setting gives Guarnido the chance to inject glorious amounts of colour to the normally muted stories of Blacksad and he takes full advantage of the newly opened up colour palette for this story, producing page after page of first class art. The full page street scene of the carnival in full swing is a page I would love to buy as a picture to hang on my wall. It's so detailed and full of mini-stories in the enormous cast of unknown characters living in that page, you'll find yourself happily pausing the story to examine the scene in the detail it deserves.
"A Silent Hell" is a slimmer volume containing one story while Dark Horse's previous Blacksad book had three. Dark Horse have beefed up the page count by including a 50-page "making of" commentary by Guarnido who walks the reader through the steps he took in creating this story. While the book is well produced with high quality paper and the artwork is gorgeous, I felt the book was overpriced for what is essentially a 54 page story plus two 2 page short stories. The additional 50 pages of behind the scenes material is really only going to appeal to the devoted fan rather than the casual reader who probably won't be as interested in finding out how Guarnido decided to draw a particular scene. It's inclusion seems to be Dark Horse's justification for charging so much for the book.
While this is a beautifully illustrated, well produced book, look beneath the surface texture and the story and characterisation is lacking nuance, originality and true intrigue. It is an average detective story that is fairly interesting but lacking the integral qualities that would make it a great comic book. In the end it is a pretty but insubstantial and forgettable read.
Overall I enjoyed this issue, not just because of the dark portrait it paints of the blues-era but also because we get a brief glimpse of Blacksad as a boy (kitten?), and you just know that it's a set-up for the next story.
This book gave me a lot of experience for my own projects. The anatomy, characters, colours, atmosphere, everything is perfect.
I've never read a better Noir comic book story.
Would you like to see more reviews about this item?
Most recent customer reviews
I'm not a fan of detective stories, but the quality of the art and the skill-level of panel design and overall comic...Read more