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Blacksad: Amarillo Hardcover – October 28, 2014
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About the Author
At an early age, Juan Díaz Canales became interested in comics and their creation, which progressed and broadened out to include animated films. At the age of 18, he entered a school for animation. In 1996 he founded, together with three other artists, a company called Tridente Animation. Through this, he has worked with European and American companies, providing plots and scripts for comics and animation films, as well as directing animated television series and animation movies. During this period he met Juanjo Guarnido, with whom Canales decided to create comics based around a private investigator, Blacksad. After contacting several editors, Guarnido and Canales finally signed on with French publisher Dargaud, and in November 2000, Somewhere Within the Shadows was published. It was a great success with both critics and the public, and was awarded the Prix de la Découverte at the Sierre International Comics Festival and the "Avenir" Prize at the Lys-lez-Lannoy Festival, in Switzerland and France respectively. In March 2003 the second album Arctic-Nation, was released. It was once again a great success, winning the Angoulême Audience Award and the Festival Prize for Artwork in 2004. The third instalment of the Blacksad series, Red Soul, was published in 2005. In 2006 it was awarded the Angoulême Prize for a Series. The author lives in Madrid, Spain.
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Art: Guarnido's art is fantastic as usual, but I did feel this episode looked a little less finished than the last. The art in the first three novels sets an incredibly high watermark in terms of visuals, perhaps THE watermark. Book 4, A Silent Hell, employs a dreamier, more watercolor-based look. Amarillo does the same, but the cells are smaller and more uniform, the characters a bit more cartoonish. That said, it is still better than most of the material out there. Characterization is still top notch: the hyena lawyer and young lion novelist are both fantastic. The color palette is infused with a shade of vintage yellow which really brings out the mood of the story and a middle America/wheat belt kind of charm. And pics like Blacksad on a motorcycle or driving a Cadillac Eldorado are just priceless.
Story: I thought this story was among the best thus far. It does not rival Arctic Nation, but it was probably on the level of Red Soul, if not a little better. There are a few elements present for the first time: continuity between episodes, recurring rivalries, some Blacksad back story. Blacksad himself seems a bit happier this time around, which really made this story seem fresh and new, yet somehow it still incorporates the elements of tragedy and world-weary fatalism present in all the books. While the other stories felt more noir, this one felt like it could have been a Hitchcock film, like North By Northwest. It moves far more briskly than the other tales, and I felt like it covered far more ground, in terms of both geography and character. Upon finishing the last page for the first time, be sure to turn one more page for a spread that really brings home the heart of the story.
Overall recommendation: If you loved the last books, this will not let you down. Even with the art taking slight step back, the story takes two big steps forward and it was overall another fantastic, moving read. If you have not read Blacksad at all, get the first book instead, as this one benefits from prior knowledge of the characters, and simply because the first book is in my opinion required reading for any graphic novel fan. Anyone can enjoy Blacksad, but its nuance works best for an adult audience that knows a little about American history and a little about classic film. I give this a 5 because there is still nothing quite like it on the market I can think of. It is a visual marvel complemented by a compelling story.
This book, however, is extremely good as well. If you like the first book, then buy this one for something a little different. Where the prior stories were darker and saturated in hues, this one is comedic and vibrant creating an interesting and fun story involving our anti-hero detective.
To summarize: Blacksad agrees to drive a yellow-colored sports car across the country as a means of making a few quick bucks. What results are an unexpected and ridiculous chain of events that'll keep you on edge until the satisfying conclusion.
If you're in to Noir detective stories with a dark tone, sexy women, and a well written story accompanied by beautiful art, then get the first Blacksad from 2010.
If, however, you'd like a slightly brighter tone with some dark comedy mixed in, get Amarillo. The art and story, for what it's worth, is still fantastic.
Also final note: All the characters are anthropomorphic animals...aka humans redrawn so that they appear as varying animals. Think a darker Zootopia, but actually enjoyable and for adults.
This book starts literally where the last one, A Silent Hell, left off. Exhausted cat detective, John Blacksad, stays behind in New Orleans while his partner, Weekly, flies back to New York. He soon comes across a rich Texan bull who asks him to drive his prized Cadillac Eldorado to Oklahoma so it'll be there when his flight touches down. Blacksad, thinking it'll be a goof vacation from crime-solving, accepts. However, he loses it when a young lion writer named Chad steals it and drives to Amarillo, Texas. Blacksad follows and meets a hyena lawyer named Neal Beato, who's a personal friend of Chad, and the two look for him together. How it plays out is something you'll have to read for yourself.
The artwork is gorgeous as usual yet it's more brighter than the past entries. Yellowish colors are featured prominently throughout this book. To me, the bright color schemes sum up this one. It's definitely more lighthearted and the writing is just standard. While the writing in the past books was very good, they were still traditional crime stories but with a European flavor, despite taking place in America. The story here isn't as interesting. However, it doesn't make this book a total bore. There are funny and exciting moments still and, even though Weekly is absent through most of it, Neal Beato is a good comedic replacement for him.
In conclusion, I can say that Amarillo is the weakest Blacksad entry to date but it's by no means bad. I'm still impressed that the series can still be entertaining, even if a book is not as good as the rest. Overall, the series has yet to put out a truly bad book. Hopefully, the issues here won't be present in the upcoming sixth and seventh books that are due to be released later this year. For those who are skeptical about this one, I still urge you to get it so you can form your own judgement.