Immanuel Diamond (Animal Noir)

Created by Izar Lunacek & Nejc Juren

What is this? The long neck of the law?

Could we just stop the madness? Please?

This craze for anthropomorphic detectives is starting to smell like clean-the-cages day at the zoo.

Sure, there have been some good ones. The decidedly adult Blacksad immediately springs to mind, and there have been tons books for kids over the years, from Sam the Cat to Chet Gecko that are just plain ol’ fun.

But the current boom is not sharp or even particularly satirical, nor is it aimed at wide-eyed kids. The current batch at aimed squarely at animal-loving “adults,” served up on a coochie-coochie-coo platter that pushes the cute button right into the sickly sweet bordering-on-nauseous area. You know–the kind of folks who dress up their pets for Christmas cards and other fun social occasions, without a trace of irony.

And this latest stab, Animal Noir, a comic mini-series released by IDW in 2017, is one of the most annoying, partially because I just don’t get it.

We’re told it’s “Chinatown meets Animal Farm and (that) just like the George Orwell classic Lunacek and Juren’s animals are an allegory for today’s world.”

I’m not so sure. This ain’t Zootopia, folks. It’s more like an old box of Animal Crackers that “tastes sorta funny.”

Private detective IMMANUEL “MANNY” DIAMOND is a jasper-smoking, fedora-and-trenchcoat-wearing giraffe who works his meandering case against a poorly lit surreal landscape (possibly inspired by Harriman’s Krazy Kat?). It’s a world populated by gangster hippos, porn-dealing leopards, stoned monkeys, wildebeest thugs and paranoid zebras (and why not? In this world, they’re near the bottom of the food chain).

Manny’s been asked by his Uncle Theo, a powerful and influential judge, to track down this world’s version of a dirty movie–a “prey” film where one animal tracks and kills another. The reason? The judge’s wife is in it.

All I’ve gotten out of the first few issues is a confusing jumble of narrative, some poorly delineated characters and some busy, crowded so-so artwork that doesn’t much clarify things. Some of the sight gags are good (Manny and his uncle taking the train, for example) and the layouts are occasionally interesting, but so what? It’s supposed to be noir, but it’s an inconsistent sort of noir at best, the dark cynicism too frequently interrupted by goofy whimsy and murky visual clues.

I dunno. Maybe this hard-boiled bestiary picks up, and the world-building will pay off.



Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

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