Comics You Should Be Reading – Blacksad

13Jun10

There is a fine balance in comic book art that is very difficult to manage.  Very few artists are capable of producing art that is both visually appealing and also tells the story.  A classic example of this is Jim Lee, whose art is absolutely gorgeous pin up art, but often fails to effectively communicate a story on its own.  Don’t even get me started on Jim Lee’s inability to draw facial expressions.

If you’re looking for a great contrast in this regard, go read Rising Stars sometime.  It is a very good story overall, but the early issues were definitely hindered by the artists who were from the Top Cow “house style”, which is a mishmash of the Jim Lee/Marc Silvestri school of art.  There’s multiple characters with long dark hair, and you simply cannot tell them apart when they do not have a costume on or are not being referred to by name.  Later in the run, Brent Anderson comes on board as the artist, and the book is vastly improved as a result from a story telling standpoint.  Anderson is a very good artist, don’t get me wrong, but his style is not the most dynamic, either.

One of my personal favorites due to his storytelling chops, Frank Quitely, is often derided for his inability to draw any background that isn’t the sky.

I mention all of this because the artist for Blacksad, Juanjo Guarnido, produces what might be the most perfect comic book art I have seen.

Which, naturally, is hard to tell from the cover you see here.

Blacksad centers around John Blacksad, a detective in a setting similar to mid-50’s America, filled with anthropomorphic characters of all stripes.  It’s classic crime noir storytelling, which is one of my favorite genres.  The stories in this volume are very good and well-done, but what puts this book over the top is the art.

The art is exquisitely detailed, pops off the page, and every panel is a work of art.  At the same time, every work of art works to tell the story.  The pages aren’t just there to show how proficient the artist is, they are there to build the story in every square inch.  If you don’t take a moment or two to enjoy each page on its own, you’re doing yourself a huge disservice.

On my weekly review scale, Blacksad gets the Exceptional rating without hesitation.  Very good stories combined with mind-blowing art…comics rarely get any better than this.  If you’re a serious comic book fan, you need to own this volume.  If you’re a casual fan, you must at least flip through the book.

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