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Badger, Bunny And Black-Cat Blues: 3 Tales Of Animal Noir

Cat detective John Blacksad investigates the disappearance of a famous pianist in <em>Blacksad: A Silent Hell.</em>
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Cat detective John Blacksad investigates the disappearance of a famous pianist in Blacksad: A Silent Hell.

How do I like my summer noir? Hard-boiled, with brooding investigators, sharp wits, danger, crazy fights, bullets, chases and loves lost, unrequited, or dripping with passion. Or perhaps tempered by darkness in a cold, post-revolutionary world filled with intrigue, conspiracy and a resistance hanging in the balance. Even better, it should be part of a series, making it both binge-worthy and binge-able. And if it turns out it's a graphic novel featuring anthropomorphic characters? Best of all.

Anthropomorphism: We've practically been weaned on it — from The Little Caterpillar, Mother Goose and Charlotte's Web, to the army of Disney characters guarding the passage to adulthood like the 300 Spartans at Thermopylae. As teens, we're turned on to the political satires like Animal Farm, with its pigs and dogs playing out tableaus of politics and human cruelty far more expressively than actual humans.

Reams have been written on our psychic response to stories told by animals, and the way animals can provide a voice to the oppressed under the mask of cute and cuddly. Plutarch wrote essays about it ("On the Use of Reason by 'Irrational' Animals" — definitely not beach reading, by the way). But that aside, most of us simply crave a good yarn well told.

Fortunately, graphic storytellers Bryan Talbot, S.M. Vidaurri and duo Juan Diaz Canales and Juanjo Guardido all deliver with their anthropomorphic creations, wowing us with their words and art, and this very important message: Don't make the kitty angry, trust toads or give bunnies explosives.

Jody Arlington is a communications and policy strategist for the independent film and documentary community, and the owner of a truly astounding number of graphic novels. She also has a thing for creepy bunnies.

Three Books... is produced and edited by the team at NPR Books.

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Jody Arlington