Blacksad 2: Arctic Nation

Juan Diaz Canales, Author, Juanjo Guarnido, Illustrator . Ibooks $12.95 (56p) ISBN 978-0-7434-7935-6

The second volume of Canales and Guarnido's hybrid of hard-boiled detective and anthropomorphic-animal comics is a visual masterpiece. The entire work is constructed around a single joke, but a brilliant one. PI John Blacksad gets involved with an investigation having to do with a white power group, the Arctics, that's been murdering blacks; a kidnapping; and a dark secret of illegitimate birth. It's a standard-issue detective-novel plot, if nicely handled—but the twist is that all the characters are animal-headed humanoids, and the tension revolves around not the color of their skin, but the color of their fur. Blacksad is a black cat; a racist politician is a polar bear; there's a black power gang led by a black horse; etc. (The climactic plot twist involves a white character turning out to have a small patch of black fur.) Like any good gumshoe tale, the story's crammed with sex and violent gunplay, and Guarnido manages to set even his wackiest-looking characters within gritty, realistic backgrounds and lighting. His art is exquisitely sensitive to the nuances of facial expression and body language—not an easy feat with characters who are drawn as weasels, crows or mice. The story's point, though, is the vicious absurdity of racism, and Canales and Guarnido express it by making their tone absolutely straight. (Mar.)

Reviewed on: 06/14/2004
Release date: 03/01/2004
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