Manga Moment #2: PLUTO, Black Jack and Wolfsmund
Pluto: Urasawa x Tezuka, Volumes 2 and 3
So on the last Manga Moment, I mentioned how the first volume of Pluto, which is based/a reimaging of Tezuka’s Astro Boy, wasn’t enough to satisfy my curiosity and that I definitely was going to be picking up more. Remember that? Well, I went out and picked up three more volumes the day after we published that column. Needless to say, I’ve blazed through both volumes 002 and 003 and I’ve brought 004 with me to work to read during my lunch break.
Pluto is something else; it’s got intrigue, suspense, action, emotion and a great set of characters. Volume 002 had a bit more focus on Atom (clearly Urasawa’s homage to Astro Boy) and we got to learn more about the seven special robots who’ve been almost systematically getting wiped out by some unknown force. Urasawa even has some commentary on the Iraq war and the search for weapons of mass destruction (or Robots of Mass Destruction, in this case.)
There’s a lot Urasawa has packed into these two volumes and on the eventual second read, I’m sure I’ll pick up on even more. But on this first go ‘round, Pluto has already become, without a doubt, one of my favorite series that I’ve read and yes, that includes “western” comics as well as Manga. Get over the “flipped” reading style and pick this up. It has great writing, great art and, as mentioned, a great cast of characters. Cannot recommend it enough, and I’ve still got five volumes to go! Easily ★★★★★/★★★★★ (VIZ Signature)
Wolfsmund, Volume 1
Now this was an interesting one. I had heard good things about it and I certainly like the historical backdrop (see my love for Vinland Saga) and warriors/knights and all that fun stuff but this was certainly not what I expected. Essentially, people are trying to escape one country via the only, heavily guarded, border station around using various, tricky methods. Unfortunately for them, Wolfram (hence the name of the series and the border station “Wolf’s Maw”) is one clever bastard and for one reason another he’s damn good at keeping people from escaping to freedom.
This was another series that I managed to sit down and just read all at once and, yeah, it held my attention even with the three separate stories that loosely tie together with the common element of somebody trying to escape through this border station. Normally, I’m not huge on that kind of storytelling and, to be honest, I’m worried that the series will just continue in this fashion—and, really, how many times can you show somebody trying to sneak or trick their way through a heavily guarded fortress?
Thankfully, the art and style is enough to make me continue. Don’t get me wrong, I really did like this first volume, I’m just tentative on what comes next and where/how Mitsuhisa Kuji (writer/artist) will take the series. It’s brutal, detailed and fast paced and, really, it does the job that I wanted it to do: sate my withdrawals until the next Vinland Saga hardcover is released. It’s certainly aimed at a more mature audience, so keep that in mind, and there’s enough of a hook to make me continue with the series. Oh, and it seems like people say this a lot these days but don’t get attached to any character. Seriously. ★★★★/★★★★★ (Vertical)
Black Jack, Volume 1
And now to the real reason you’re all here: to read about my very first experience reading an Osamu Tezuka manga. Okay, maybe not, but we’re going to cover that anyway. Considering what I’ve been reading (Pluto, Wolfsmund, Vinland Saga and even Deadman Wonderland) jumping into Tezuka’s style was a bit jarring. I’m not sure if I was prepared for just how cartoony it was going to be (side note: some parts kinda reminded me of Scott Pilgrim, is that weird? Was he influenced by Tezuka?) but after a bit of adjustment time, I got used to it and really got into the story.
Again, like Wolfsmund, it was a bunch of shorter stories that basically just show off the insanely-insane things that Dr. Black Jack can do and serve as an intro to the rest of the series that I’m lead to believe is very much along the same lines as volume one. Meaning, they’re all shorter stories that are just collected in various volumes—sixteen or seventeen if I remember the shelf at my shop correctly. Now, again, I’m not generally a fan of this but this is f***ing Tezuka and while I wasn’t absolutely blown away by this introductory volume, I was most certainly hooked.
Tezuka cleverly writes a dark and fascinating character while depicting him, and the world around him, in more of a comical way. There are panels and characters with definite Disney influences that he’ll follow up with crazy realistic surgery panels. It’s makes for a very unique and interesting read that puts itself into a completely different category from what I’ve read so far on my Manga journey. As you’ll see by my rating below, I don’t quite consider this to be perfect, and that might change with a re-read down the line once I’m more familiar and comfortable with the style, but I’ve already gone ahead and purchased volume two as well as Tezuka’s Buddha while I eye the hardcover editions of Message to Adolf and the large MW book. So, there’s hope. Definitely check this out if you’ve got any interest in Manga or Tezuka because who can say no to the “God of Manga”? ★★★★/★★★★★ (Vertical)