I’m not a big fan of anthropomorphic verses. But I am a fan of noir and when done right (Who Framed Roger Rabbit? for example, although the book isn’t great), it can be fun. This one is mostly done right. Imported from Spain, the book seems to be set in America (maybe Los Angeles?) and centers around the titular character, a 50s-style private eye…who is also a cat living in a world of talking animals.
There are three stories in this first volume of Blacksad, each are distinct and show the talent of the writer. The first is a familiar detective story from that era: a dead dame who just so happened to be the former sleeping partner of the protagonist. It’s done well but the weakest of the three.
The next two are quite interesting. One sends our detective to a stereotypical small town where the plant has closed and left the area bereft of decent work. The resulting depression leads to a rise of a white supremacist group. Yes, a literal white supremacist group of animals, led by a polar bear with white foxes and other white creatures. It’s also linked with police brutality. The story has a chance to fall on its face but again, the writers show a nuanced understanding of American racial politics and it works better than it should (and concludes with an appropriately melancholy note).
Story number three presents a McCarthy-like anti-communist Senator fighting the reds while our hero tries to protect some idealistic lefties. It does a good job capturing the paranoia of both 50s era communist panic and the nuclear scare.
While the stories are compelling, there are some drawbacks. For example: I don’t understand why these characters had to be animals. Unlike something such as Zootopia, there aren’t many references to the unique characteristics of each animal. There are small jabs like “9 lives” and “curiosity” and all but there’s not much that distinguishes the respective species from themselves except appearances.
Which leads to another drawback: all the female animals in this book who are depicted as being attractive have massive, human-like breasts. It’s bizarre. There are few other animals depicted as having bulging muscles or other human-like physical traits except for that. Nothing else really to chalk it up to except for good ol’ fashioned sexism. Connected to this are how poorly most of the female characters are written (your standard issue dames who are there to have sex or get in the way).
Still, if you enjoy the private eye mystery genre like I do, and if a world of talking animals set in a noir tale strikes your fancy, check this out.