"Blacksad" by Juan Diaz Canales and Juanjo Guarnido

Blacksad is a volume of three graphic novelettes written by  Juan Diaz Canales and drawn by Juanjo Guarnido centered around the character of John Blacksad, a tough detective who lives in a tough town.

The first story, "Somewhere Within the Shadows," centers around the death of an actress with whom Blacksad was once romantically involved. "Arctic Nation," the second story, is more forced but manages to work in the fact that the characters are animals a lot better. It deals with a small town where white power animals, such as weasels, polar bears, foxes and goats, are clashing with black activists such as crows, horses, and bulls.  The black vs white conflict also involves the local sheriff, a missing girl, and incestuous relationships. Of all the stories, this feels the most like a Dashiel Hammet story.  The final story "Red Soul" is set in the mid to late 50's, and concerns atomic research, communist bashing, and a small circle of poets, artists and intellectuals.  A rooster named Senator Gallo does a good job impersonating Sen. McCarthy.  I also enjoyed the characterization of the ferret reporter.

Canales seems to have a lot of fun matching the characterization with the appropriate animals.  Guarnido's art is lushly watercolored with amazing detail, yet the characters don't get lost in the composition. The stories seem, to me, obviously a European, although I couldn't put a finger on why.

Just the art itself is worth buying the book, but like Dashiell Hammett, the way the character and plot is woven together makes it worth reading and re-reading the stories.