It is certainly a beautiful thing when a follow-up follows through.

Doubly so when that follow-up happens to track the caliber adventures of a character like John Blacksad. In fact, too often creative talents seem to buckle under the strain of trying to serve up a meaningful sequel or successor to that first great story that marks the introduction of a character and the foundation of their ethos and environment. Those stories suffer from the torment of trying to conscientiously emulate themselves so closely that the inevitable result is a formulaic sequel that is less a realistic continuation of the story or extension of the world and more so a tiresomely cyclic rehash of what came before. Tropes are retooled, storylines remolded, and plots reshuffled so that originality takes that inexorable backseat to the guaranteed safety of familiarity at the wheel.

Detective fiction, in particular is fickle thing; there are only so many ways writers can frame the oh-so-typical murder mystery or the apocryphal whodunit before readers find themselves jaded from a purgatorial state of repetition that is so symptomatic of one story as much as the next. And it is perhaps for this reason above any other that Blacksad’s sophomore effort, Arctic Nation manages to be entirely wholesome and refreshing.

If Spaniards Juan Diaz Canales and Juanjo Guardino used Blacksad’s sublime introduction as diving board into the squalid and anthropomorphized world of 1950s Americana, Artic Nation sees readers take the proverbial plunge into that twisted and frigid world. The duo have made the wise decision to diligently skip over the tried-and-true in favour of a more expressive expansion of the world they have deftly created. The result is a two-fold effort as it allows for an expansion of the subversive elements that pepper the microcosm of Blacksad’s universe but also serves as effective satire of our own culture and heritage. And it pays in dividends.

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Provided the reader is as open-minded as Blacksad himself.

That might seem like a challenge, considering that at first glance, Artic Nation’s plotline appears wholly convoluted and even a tad ludicrous given the abject subject matter: racism and white-supremacism. Make that white-fur supremacism. But it is the decision to confront these misguided ideologies in the pages of a graphic novel and the stylistic approach to tackle them that make Blacksad’s second outing so utterly enthralling. Using animal symbolism and stereotypes as allegory for human behavior is not exactly a novel concept of course, yet Canales and Guardino’s tactics are certainly unique enough to warrant mountains of praise.

On the surface, Artic Nation sees John Blacksad on hunt for a missing child while cautiously maneuvering through the precariousness of a racial movement; a particularly ridiculous movement but nevertheless serious. Using fur-colour as a subtext for discrimination, especially between species of animals is understandably absurd and more so when the characters preach the bigotry which such primal fever. So absurd in fact, that reading some of the racially-charged dialogue might even bring some readers to helpless roll their eyes in disbelief.

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But this is precisely the point.

The reader should try and look beyond this first layer of preposterousness to if there is any chance to find the argument of the story and the over-the-top incongruity of racism as a belief system is precisely that argument. Blacksad is the kind of book that revels in parabolic storytelling and excels at this particular stylization. The outward story always obvious, but it is the thematic quality and the core message that Blacksad takes such great lengths to make that allow the series to stand out among the library of comic albums available to readers.

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So Artic Nation takes a chance with an unsympathetic and hard look at bevy of themes that some might not expect to find in just the second volume of a fledging series: a conceptual analysis of abduction, pedophilia, intolerance, hatred, and revenge are all scattered throughout Blacksad’s follow-up journey and each idea is handles with enough delicacy and bravado that they result is beautiful and dark kind of odyssey.

In this case, the sheer silliness of racist animals (particularly bias borne of fur-colour) shouldn’t serve to deter from the believability of plot as much as it should oblige the reader to consider the illogical prejudices that litter our own world what that intolerance and bias says about our own species.

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True to form however, Blacksad offers up no answers and no solutions. It a series that serves to merely reflect back to us our own wayward past; to present us our problems on a platter of glossy pages and panels of gorgeous artwork so tenderly crafted that any comic book aficionado should be hard-pressed to turn away from. And it is a bold choice to avoid the sermonizing high road in favour of simply shining a pale light on the shadowy morals and cruelty that might lurk in us all.

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Leaving the decision to read on to each of us.

Blacksad can be purchased at your Local Comic Shop or on Dark Horse’s website.

Overall Score
95 %

Blacksad's second outing is a prolific and thought-provoking allegory that represents a superb second outing for the anthropomorphic detective.

Story 95%
Writing 95%
Pencils and Ink 95%
Colours 95%

About The Author

Kabir Chauhan is self-professed lover of video games, photography, fine films, and Oxford commas. When he isn't indulging in any of that, he enjoys the occasional comic book or two...or three as well as talking about himself in the third person.

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