Blacksad: Amarillo

Blacksad 5Summary: The fifth installment in the series sees John Blacksad tasked with driver a Cadillac from New Orleans to Tulsa. The road trip becomes a cross country jaunt in an attempt to solve a murder involving biker parades, lawyers, writers and a circus.

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Blacksad: Amarillo, by Juan Díaz Canales and Juanjo Guarnido 8.0

‘Amarillo’ finds Blacksad in New Orleans in between P.I. gigs. While Weekly goes home by plane, Blacksad is short on funds and decides that he’d rather find his way back than borrow money from his buddy for a plane ticket. In no time flat, he is asked to drive a businessman’s luxury car back to the man’s place.

Obviously, not all goes as planned.

Blacksad encounters a couple of misfits who proceed to steal the car, forcing him to chase after them across the country – at first to get the car back, and later to get some answers from them. To make matters worse, he is inadvertently linked to a murder and finds himself with a couple of cops on his tail.

I’m not entirely sure how I feel about this latest offering by Canales and Guarnido. On the one hand, I did enjoy myself a fair bit throughout. And it was a fine book. On the other hand, however, tonally, it’s not what I would have liked: unlike my favourite entries in the series, it’s slightly lighter, more comical.

What I enjoyed about the series was the anthropomorphic noir mix that you don’t find elsewhere. The books stood on their own merits with noir-ish stories that could easily have been pulled from a pulp novel. Unfortunately, this entry felt like it had a Disney-ish quality to it: its edges are softened and polished off.

The writing isn’t entirely up to snuff, really. While the core story is good, it feels contrived in many instances, from Blacksad’s encounter with the businessman at the airport all the way to the death of the lawyer at the end. These were incidents of convenience, and could easily have been developed more realistically.

Still it’s not intolerable or especially irritating.

The art is what helps the book transcend its literary limitations. As per usual, Guarnido does a marvelous job of portraying everything that’s on the page. The art is much richer, nicer, for the close shots, and a bit sketchier for the longer shots, but it’s all rendered with a sure hand and a relative amount of detail.

What’s fun is that he introduced all sorts of new animals in this book, besides the scrappier types found in previous books. Canales introduced a circus in his story (no doubt to offer Guarnido a larger palette to work with), so there’s a much greater variety of animals both in the foreground and in the background.

One gets the sense that Canales and Guarnido are having a lot more fun with the series now. Whereas there was a feeling of pressure and time constraints in the last two, this one breathes a sigh of relief. It’s not quite of the same quality as the first two, but it’s a very solid offering and will no doubt please fans.

I’m certainly back on board and looking forward to the next adventure.

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