Blacksad: L’Enfer, le silence

Blacksad 4Summary: Detective John Blacksad returns, with a new case that takes him to a 1950s New Orleans filled with hot jazz and cold-blooded murder! Hired to discover the fate of a celebrated pianist, Blacksad finds his most dangerous mystery yet in the midst of drugs, voodoo, the rollicking atmosphere of Mardi Gras, and the dark underbelly that it hides!

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Blacksad: L’Enfer, le silence, by Juan Díaz Canales and Juanjo Guarnido 7.5

With ‘L’Enfer, le silence’, the fourth book in the Blacksad series, Canales and Guarnido have put together an appealing mystery involving jazz musicians in New Orleans. Merely tasked to find Sebastian “Little Hand” Fletcher, a key player in a four-piece of handicapped musicians, Blacksad and his friend Weekly begin to uncover a conspiracy of silence forged decades prior – as well as a plan for revenge.

It’s a wickedly original story, but it doesn’t read very well. The problem is that it isn’t linear and it doesn’t clearly illustrate when we’re in the present and when we’re in the past. I frequently found myself flipping back and forth between the pages to situate myself; we can’t tell where the scenes are located in time so had to try to piece it all together myself. It made the experience more interactive, but also more frustrating.

I should note that this could very well be an artistic failing, because Guradino could easily have made the panels look different when we were in the past (or some other such device). Or maybe the script is the problem… it’s hard to say. For instance, there was a sequence when two characters are telling the same story to different people, but we never know who’s speaking. Is it the writer’s fault or the artist’s? Hmmm…

Compared to the previous book, the art is mercifully more detailed, richer. Unfortunately, the work lacks finesse and it still looks like Guarnido is in a rush. It’s more enjoyable than Âme Rouge‘ was, but a quick comparison with the first two books shows a significant change in his rendering: the panels are more like quick watercolour paintings than detailed art. And that’s a bloody shame, because he can do better.

Still, ‘L’Enfer, le silence’ is a much better book than most of its peers. Sure, it has its problems, the biggest of which is the storytelling, but it’s a quality graphic novel nonetheless. I remain a fan, even if my enthusiasm is now tapered slightly; I still look forward to the next installments in Blacksad’s adventures. I just hope that Canales and Guarnido will take their sweet time with the next one. I’d rather a long, satisfying wait, than a short, unfulfilling one.

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