Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Blacksad 5: Amarillo by Juan Díaz Canales and Juanjo Guarnido

I don’t usually buy comics on Wednesday, but today I made a special trip to my favourite comic shop. Why? A new installment of Blacksad was released today!!! Part 5 already and did it take Díaz Canales and Guarnido a long time or not? Volume 4, or Silent Hell as it’s called, was already two years ago. Needless to say my expectations were high going into Amarillo. I mean Guarnido took his time, we’ve seen this killer cover and some preview art to boot. And then the hype over here in Europe… Blacksad has been one of the most anticipated books of 2013. Will this new volume in the Blacksad saga live up to my expectations and the hype? And will it be as brilliant as the second volume White Nation?

Well to answer that straight away… no I don't think it’s as good as White Nation and in my opinion not as good as the other volumes either. I think that has to do with Amarillo not being set up like a detective story as was the case in the other volumes. It’s got more of an adventure type story vibe to it. Also I felt the story didn’t really tackle any heavy issues like discrimination or racism. Well there is some racial joking somewhere in this volume, with all due respect, but it’s not as heavily handled as it has been in other volumes. So I think it lacked some depth. Would I disqualify this entry in the Blacksad series though? Absolutely not. It’s just different to what came before. Amarillo is not as dark and I think that is exactly what Díaz Canales intended when he wrote this story. It feels like he wanted to have some fun in this story and that is what Amarillo turned out to be. Just a fun story!

The book starts with Blacksad and Weekly at the Moisant Airpot in New Orleans. Weekly is taking a flight to New York, but Blacksad will stay behind to chill out a little bit. He doesn’t have a whole lot of money left, but with an honest gesture and some luck he lands a job and a cool 50’s Cadillac Eldorado that needs relocating to Tulsa, Oklahoma, before he even leaves the airport. After arrival in Tulsa, Blacksad stops at the petrol station to fill the Eldorado up. At the same moment authors Abraham and Chad arrive at the petrol station with a broken car. They decide to abandon the broken down car and attempt stealing a motorbike. The attempt fails though and the motorbike clan doesn’t take this lightly. Blacksad jumps in between and tries to avoid violence. However when he’s talking to the motorbike guys Chad and Abraham steal the Cadillac! The two guys end up in a sleazy bar in Amarillo and drink stupid amounts of alcohol. You just know someone’s going to die eventually when you mix lots of booze and lots of guns. BANG! Someone dies! But who dies? Will this be reported to the police? And how does Blacksad get messed up in all of this. He only wanted to chill out, right?

On with Guarnido’s art now. Well nothing new here and that’s a good thing. The art is as stunning as we have come familiar with from Guarnido. His drawings are detailed, his faces show great expressions, are dynamic and overall beautiful to look at. Guarnido knows how to capture the atmosphere of the American South. I mean I’ve never been there, but I’d like to think that I now even know how it smells over there. Of course the cover will draw you right into the story. You know where this story is supposed to take place just by looking at that cover, but with all the little details, such as those oil pumps, iconic cars, Mobil Oil petrol stations, typical American architecture and wide open landscapes, clear blue skies and the way in which the sun is used, Guarnido transports you there for the duration of the book. Well done!!

So that’s it. I told you my complaints, but I also said it is a great addition to the series. Amarillo is a fun story and you’ll find yourself laughing out loud quite a couple of times, because of the silly, sometimes even cheesy jokes. The art is gorgeous and just that would be worth the investment.

So when will Dark Horse bring us an English translation? I wish I could tell you, but I really don’t know. The previous two books that contained volume 1-3 and volume 4 were very successful and are still top of mind with many comic lovers. Hopefully Dark Horse will announce an English edition soon, so the rest of the world can catch up with Blacksad’s new adventure too. 

Review is based on the Dutch release by Dargaud. Originally published in French by Dargaud.

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