The Blacksad series was created by Juan Diaz Canales and Juanjo Guarnido and targeted a French audience despite both being Spanish. The first volume, Somewhere Within The Shadows, was published in 2000 by Dargaud. In 2010 Dark Horse comics put out a hardcover collection of the first three volumes (the third volume being translated to English for the first time). A fourth volume was released also in 2010 called The Hell, The Silence and has been translated by fans for English-speaking audiences.
Somewhere Within the Shadows
John Blacksad, a detective, wakes up to the smell of fresh gunpowder and the blood of a former lover of his: the actress Natalia. He becomes obsessed with finding her killer, an obsession that leads him to tracking down one of Natalia's admirers - an admirer who wanted her dead. He talks to one of Natalia's former bodyguards, a world-class boxer named Jake Ostiombe. He gets the name "Leon" from Jake, but not much else besides bad nostalgia. Turns out that the man John is searching for is Leon Kronski, one of Natalia's old screenwriters. Investigating Leon's house, John finds little more than clues leading to a man with "bulging eyes."
John goes to Mr. Zenuck, owner of Zenuck Productions, for more information about Leon. Turns out, Leon has gone missing and more clues hint at the man with "bulging eyes." On the way from Zenuck Productions, John gets attacked by an assassin who escapes before John can get any answers from him. Using Leon's ID, he goes to the Cypher Club where he finds a potential lead. He follows him to a grave marked "Noel Krisnok," an anagram of the name. With a dead end, John takes a beating by some thugs before going home. He wakes up in a jail cell before a good friend of his comes in: the police chief Smirnov. Smirnov gives John his personal protection as he digs deeper in the case and releases him to continue solving Natalia's murder.
John goes back to his apartment only to find another assassin waiting for him. A second assassin kills the first after he taunts John with valuable evidence and, after a short gunfight, John kills the second one. The first assassin is still alive and tells John that Natalia's killer murdered both her and her boyfriend at the time - Leon Kronski. The assassin leaves the world and John with a name: Ivo Statoc, chairman of Statoc Industries.
Though John inevitably kills Statoc for instigating the murder of Natalia and Leon, he still does so in cold blood. Statoc was a multimillionaire and had connections, none of which could be traced back to him. His thugs were rounded up and arrested. Smirnov, true to his word, keeps John out of trouble.
The Line, a miserable collection of poverty and heated racial wars. John somehow manages to pick up a small-time reporter named Weekly on the way. A missing child, Kylie, leads John into the thick of the conflict as he tries to extract clues from the girl's mother Dinah. To his horror, she explains that she is being held captive by the white supremacy group running rampant through Oldsmill. Whether she is alive or dead at this point is uncertain. War is brewing between the Black Claws and the White Arctic Nation. The chief of police in the district, Karup, seems to be behind the kidnapping and John goes to speak with Mr. Oldsmill. Oldsmill hints that Karup had relations with Dinah. John's partner in the case discovers that Karup's wife Jezebel is cheating on him with a man named Huk. When John goes to Dinah's house, he discovers that she has been butchered - recently.
John goes to Karup and indirectly exposes Huk, who is part of the White Arctic Nation. That Sunday, Karup plots with Huk but not before beating him to a pulp for murdering Dinah as well as sleeping with his wife. In the meantime, Weekly goes missing and he interrogates a bad luck bird named Cotton for information. Karup and his wife have a violent falling out as his passions for white supremacy come to a boil.
Cotton leads John to an abandoned airplane factory where the White Arctic Nation is gathering for a ritual of grotesque proportions. Just as Karup arrives, however, Huk ensnares him in a trap and holds up the tattered and bloody remains of a child-sized dress. Huk's betrayal is a ruse as he pulls the lever, promising to "take good care" of Karup's wife. John manages to free his reporter friend by disguising himself and knocking over one of the burning crosses, causing a panic. He fights his way through the factory while Huk tries to make an escape, severely wounding Cotton in the process. John and Weekly find Cotton, who tells them the girl is in his old airplane. Cotton dies in his cockpit, still raving about how much he wants to go to Las Vegas.
John, Weekly, and Kylie escape from the burning factory. The local police force brushes the case off as all Karup's doing, though Huk remains at large. John tracks him down only to find that he has been murdered in his own mechanic shop.
John goes to Karup's burial and finds his wife mourning over Dinah's grave. He finds out that the two were sisters, born from Karup's first wife. Karup was once a kind and loving man, until Oldsmill warped his mind with white supremacy propaganda. Karup took his first wife to the wilderness and left her to die, seven months pregnant. He never knew she bore two girls.
With both Dinah and her mother's deaths avenged, it seems that Jezebel takes over as Kylie's guardian. Though Kylie will never forget John, Weekly, or Cotton - the three people who kept her safe in a world gone insane.
A man of his word, John goes to Las Vegas to repay the debt he owed to Cotton. He employs himself as a bodyguard for a wealthy man named Hewitt Mandeline. While at an art museum, he reunites with Smirnov and meets his family. While sifting through pamphlets, he finds one advertising a lecture hosted by one of his old college professors. He ditches Hewitt to attend.
Otto Liebber, a renowned physicist and atomic researcher, is accompanied by Samuel Cotfield at the lecture. Outside the lecture hall, protesters against the growing fascination with the hydrogen bomb project stir up trouble. Alma, one of Otto's friends, keeps John from interacting directly with the professor. These first fleeting moments between them, however, are crucial for their eventual romance. Otto and John meet up and discuss their lives up until that point when the glass behind them shatters and Cotfield herds them to his beach resort for an impromptu party.
While at said party, Cotfield becomes intoxicated and almost drowns. While pulling him out, one of the other professors attending named Otero fires a mild argument with a man named Laszlo. After the party, Otero goes home only to be murdered in his own bathroom by an assassin. The next day, Cotfield glues himself to the propaganda of Senator Gallo, utterly shocked by Otero's death and seeking some kind of consolation. John and Alma manage to find some chemistry with each other before John leaves to speak with a painter named Sergei Litvak. Litvak gives Otto's hat back to John and Blacksad delivers it back to his professor, but Otto is distraught over the death of his friend Otero. He reminisces with John while they walk together to the parking lot. John keeps an eye on Otto as he starts to leave, but sees the same assassin who murdered Otero try to rig Otto's car to explode. After a short brawl, the assassin escapes.
Smirnov arrives on the scene and invites John and Alma to dinner to discuss the case as well as the assassin named "Ribs."
Elsewhere, Otto drifts into the back alleys of town to the remnants of an old church. He breaks down into tears after seeing it reduced to a makeshift shelter for the homeless.
John investigates Laszlo's home and discovers that he is a Nazi hunter. More disturbing still is the fact that Otto Liebber is one of the Nazis Laszlo has been trying to kill.
Elsewhere, Cotfield cracks under Senator Gallo's intensive interrogation and an order for everyone involved with Otto Liebber to be arrested comes into play. John manages to save Alma by posing as an FBI agent and seeks shelter at Weekly's apartment. John sends Weekly to try and find out as much as he can while he and Alma hide out. He promises to take Alma to her dream vacation at Niagara Falls.
Sergei is hounded by agents until a botched "truth serum" puts him under. Rather than face the consequences of their actions, the agents stage it like a suicide for John to find. Blacksad finds Otto in the old aquarium he is fond of. Otto confesses his life story about joining the Nazi party for noble reasons, but eventually having to flee to America and start a new life. Otto said he trusted Litvak, but secrets of the hydrogen bomb were leaked to the Russians. Amid the growing "Red Scare" epidemic, war seemed inevitable.
Meanwhile, John finds the formula for the hydrogen bomb hidden in Litvak's paintings, but he is cornered by the FBI and brought to Senator Gallo. Gallo threatens John with murder, even though his agents staged it as such, but also offered him the chance to walk away and have Litvak's death pinned as a medical accident. The choice is obvious.
John goes to Cotfield's estate and finds him frantically digging a bomb shelter. Cotfield gives Blacksad the keys to his various safes, cars, and the house. He investigates further and finds a list of 100 names Gallo planned to take in his own private shelter in order to wait out a supposed nuclear war so that he could rebuild civilization to his liking. This paranoia did not go over well with the public.
Gallo did more than almost scare America into a third world war, he incarcerated John long enough to miss his date with Alma at Niagara Falls. Her only protection against the clouds of water splashing against the rocks is a newspaper with a shocking headline: Otto Liebber had committed suicide. Blacksad sends Weekly home with the list of Gallo's "selected," knowing it would be safe with him. The story arc closes with John reading Otto's suicide letter, signed "Der Professor."
The Hell, the Silence
John and Weekly are in the heart of New Orleans. After Weekly interviews the local prison warden Faust Lachabelle (who is also a famous music producer), Weekly brings John to the Lachabelle manor where Faust is undergoing a strange healing ritual. By the properties of this ritual, Faust claims to be "outliving his cancer." Faust wants John and Weekly to find Sebastian "Little Hand" Fletcher, a famous pianist who has gone missing. Faust tells John that Sebastian is like a son to him, but is also a notorious heroin addict. John has some unhealthy competition in the case in the form of Ted Leeman, a detective Faust once had on the case but one who blackmailed Lachapelle with inflated fees for his services.
That night, John goes to the Ebony for clues. One of the men there starts heckling John and a fight breaks out, one that Blacksad easily wins. The bar turns out to be little more than a dead end. While at a record store however, John encounters one of Sebastian's old band mates named Lenoir. After Lenoir leaves, a man by the name of Thomas Lachabelle (the estranged son of Faust Lachabelle) introduces himself to John and invites him to lunch. During their meal, Thomas pleads with John to drop the case which, of course, he refuses to.
Later, at the Fletcher residence, John interrogates Hannah Fletcher - Sebastian's wife - moments after she gives birth to a son. Thomas, abhorred, cannot do much to stem John's stubbornness while in the process reveals that he despises his father. Hannah tells John about Sebastian's latest song "Pizen Blues."
A little while later, Weekly informs John that another of Sebastian's old band mates named Harper was murdered. John goes to Faust once more and questions him about Sebastian's song. According to Lachabelle, the word "pizen" means "poison" in Sebastian's native language. After telling Faust that Harper has been murdered, John takes his leave.
Blacksad stalks the alleyways looking for clues if not for Sebastian, then for his drug dealer. In the midst of a Mardi Gras celebration, the appearance of a man in a red cloak and skull mask would seem normal if not for the underhanded exchange between him and another man. Trailing him as best he could, John loses sight of him in the chaos of the festival and goes to the docks searching for some kind of lead. Fortunately, one finds him.
Ted Leeman attacks him, trying to drown him in the process, but John shoots him three times in the stomach before being tossed into the water. John wakes up on dry land to a mysterious man with three mermaid tattoos on his chest who had dragged him to safety. Confused, John continues on his way.
It isn't until Weekly overhears that Sebastian is playing at Wild Note that the case turns for the better. However, John has to finish some business with Ted and stakes out in Lenoir's shed, Lenoir being the logical candidate for Ted's next victim. Leeman mentions a "Live Everlasting" before John emerges and starts fighting him. Lenoir ends up killing Ted by stabbing his spine with a pick ax. John interrogates Lenoir about a man named "Dr. Dupre" and the secret behind "Pizen Blues."
Everything points back to Faust Lachabelle.
Faust tells John about a peaceful country called Caldonia, which was once afflicted with a terrible plague of mutation and abnormalities. The source of the sickness was actually originally intended as a miracle cure for influenza, a drug called "Live Everlasting." Dr. Dupre, the man behind the drug, paid the local judge handsomely so that he would turn a deaf ear to the poor and illiterate. Faust goes on to explain that there were four musicians who emerged from that terrible time: Joachim, Lenoir, Harper, and Sebastian. Dupre had changed his name and made a fortune from a record label centered in New Orleans: Lachabelle Records. Faust had to face his past sooner or later. After the band reunited following the war, Joachim had been diagnosed with lung disease. Lenoir was the only person he ever told the truth about Caldonia to. Lenoir turned around and told Sebastian and Harper, the latter of whom began to blackmail Faust.
That landed him a spot in Faust's penitentiary.
Sebastian kept quiet, afraid of what was going to happen. He became a heroin addict to try and get rid of the reality he was faced with, but only served to undermine the one he lived in. With the secret of "Pizen Blues" solved, John tried to kill or at least severely hurt Faust for the pain he caused, but Weekly drops in and tells John that Sebastian is at the Wild Note. John wastes no time, but time was against him from the very beginning. Though it is never explained, it is heavily implied that Sebastian's drug supplier was, in fact, Faust Lachabelle.
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