What if I told you there was a thrilling detective series with amazing artwork, compelling drama, and writing that is off the charts – and by the way, all the characters are furries?
If that sounds like something you might enjoy, then the three Blacksad graphic novels come with my highest recommendation (Blacksad, Blacksad: A Silent Hell, and Blacksad: Amarillo). Let’s go through what makes the stories so compelling:
Every expression, hand gesture, and tuft of fur is rendered in beautiful detail by Juanjo Guarnido. It can take him several years to illustrate each volume, because every panel is painted with traditional watercolor techniques. Don’t get me wrong, I love digital artwork, but there is something about the texture and feel of traditional work that can make the art come alive. In many cases, the limitations of a medium can help an artist realize their vision in new and creative ways – when an artist like Guarnido must place every brushstroke and spot of highlight with practiced care, the finished product is all the better for it.
The color moods and lighting choices that the artist chooses do a great job of setting the emotional tone for each scene. Not to mention, the group shots of the characters and the detailed backgrounds are just stunning. I don’t even want to know how long it took the artist to plan out each costume, building, and fold of clothing. It speaks to the dedication that the artist had when making these works that not a single panel looks rushed or unfinished – every one feels as real as looking out the window on the real world.
In all, I would read these books for the art alone, but the other aspects of the work just add to the brilliance.
Rarely have I seen characters so “human” in a work of fiction – ironic for a story about anthropomorphic characters, I know. Every character feels like a real person, both in the writing and the artwork.
Blacksad (left) and Weekly (right) are my personal favorites – Blacksad is a seasoned detective who always seems to end up in a bind, and his best friend Weekly is a spunky news photographer who is always looking for the latest scoop. I have a very soft spot in my heart for Weekly – after all, he is so smol and so cute! And, the physical comedy that results from the differences in body type among the different species always makes me laugh.
However, a pretty serious flaw in these books is the dated way that they portray female characters. Sure, these books are set in mid 20th century America, but I would still like to see a more progressive and nuanced take. The writing and art for the male characters indicate that the authors are biased towards them, in my opinion. For one, there are many more male than female characters, and for two, the male characters are portrayed as more complex in their emotions and morality. Finally, there is a clear distinction in how the characters are drawn – the female characters are, with few exceptions, drawn as more “human-looking” than their male counterparts.
(The above photos illustrate the difference in portrayal of male and female characters.)
While the male characters are drawn with incredible diversity of species, color palette, and anatomy, the female characters are virtually photocopies of each other with the colors changed. It’s such a stark contrast that it can be a bit distracting when reading. However, not that it excuses these issues, but under-representation of women is not just a problem in Blacksad, but in comics in general. Hopefully the author and writer will take these critiques to heart and create more diverse and morally complex female characters in future issues.
One of my hallmarks of a great work of fiction is when you feel an emotional bond with a character from page one, and that bond only deepens as you read through the text. Writer Juan Díaz Canales does an exceptional job at this in each graphic novel, and the tight writing gets across incredible density of information about each character with only a few words in a comic panel.
As a huge fan of anthropomorphic characters, I can often find myself reading comics “just for the art” – but not in this case. Unlike many comics, which can be quite forgettable and simple in their writing, Blacksad’s stories are written for an adult audience and don’t pull any punches to help you keep up with the complex plotlines. They set up fascinating mysteries and then pay them off in surprising and satisfying ways. You can expect to think about and consider whether you would make the same choices as the characters in the novel, even weeks after you’ve finished reading. Something that sticks with you like that is a true gem, and is one of the reasons why these are the first novels I recommend to a furry.
To me, there’s nothing better than starting a book and being unable to put it down until you reach the last page – I couldn’t get enough of the stellar artwork and writing in these novels, and spent hours enraptured by the stories they told.
In my opinion, the Blacksad books are best furry graphic novels of all time, bar none. I can’t recommend these comics highly enough – despite some flaws, they easily get a 10/10 from me. No matter which of the three published volumes you pick up (Blacksad, Blacksad: A Silent Hell, or Blacksad: Amarillo), you will be enthralled from beginning to end. Pick these up on Amazon or at your local library!
Editor’s note: Opinion pieces are written and posted by independent writers, and do not represent the views of AwooNews.com or its employees.
Blacksad is published by French publisher Dargaud and published in North America by Dark Horse Comics. The excerpts used in this article are used for the purpose of education and therefore fall under the Limitations on exclusive rights: Fair use clause of the Copyright Act of 1976, 17 U.S.C. § 107