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Reviews and commentary by Tony Isabella
"America's Most Beloved Comic-Book Writer & Columnist"

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for Thursday, February 12, 2009

Black Jack Volume 1

Osamu Tezuka's Black Jack Volume 1 [Vertical; $16.95] collects a dozen stories starring one of the most intriguing heroes created by the God of Comics. Black Jack is a medical genius who chose never to get a medical license. He is a medical mercenary whose services come at astronomical prices, but only for those who can afford them. However, though he promotes the notion he's an uncaring mercenary, he often performs his wonders free for people who could never afford his normal rates.

Each of the stories in this volume is self-contained. The first - "Is There a Doctor?" - establishes Black Jack's character as a man whose sense of justice is as keen as his nigh-supernatural surgical skills. That one is fairly down-to-earth, but some of the other stories cross into horror and science fiction. Even the most outlandish of them is believable, due to Tezuka's own nigh-supernatural skill as one of the great comics creators of them all.

Despite Black Jack being a man of mystery, Tezuka reveals much of the man's history in this first volume. We meet the doctor who inspired him to medical greatest and the lost love of his life, as well as learning about his youthful trials. These are some of the best stories in the volume, though, truth be told, there isn't a bad story to be found here. Tezuka was a master at devising his plots, bringing characters to life, and telling his tales with both clarity and excitement.

Black Jack Volume 1 earns the full five out of five Tonys. Tezuka wrote and drew over 200 Black Jack stories; I'm hoping this Vertical series reprints them all.

Tony Tony Tony Tony Tony

Shinjuku Shark

Veteran "Tips" readers know of my love for Ed McBain's 87th Precinct novels. Now, also from Vertical, comes another police procedural series that couldn't be more different, but which floats my boat in much the same way as the McBain books.

Shinjuku Shark [$14.95] is the first book in Arimasa Osawa's award-winning series about Samejima, the lone wolf police detective who relentlessly pursues criminals and, in doing so, often upsets the plodding, rigid bureaucracy of the Japanese force. In this initial thriller, Samejima is pursuing an old nemesis, an illegal gun-maker whose unusual firearms don't always look like guns, at the same time that a serial killer of police officers is terrorizing Tokyo.

Osawa presents his readers with finely-crafted characters, realistic situations, and edge-of-your-seat tension. For American readers, there's the excitement of discovering a police procedural as different from the American variety as our police forces are from their Japanese counterparts. It's a fascinating book and it earns the full five out of five Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony Tony Tony



For the next two weeks, I'll be hunkering down to finish a big project. This will severely curtail my regular web-surfing. I'll be hitting my personal online hangouts, reading comic strips and my e-mail, and little else. Here's the request...

If you see something online you think I absolutely should be made aware of, post the link on my message board or send me a short e-mail with that link.

Among the things you don't have to send me are:

Any sort of political news or commentary.

Any comics news that doesn't have the words "Tony Isabella" in it or that doesn't bear directly on my work and/or well-being. I usually try to keep up with the latest comics news, but I'm going to be too busy to do that for the next two weeks.

Any comics commentary, even if it has words "Tony Isabella" in it or bears directly on my work and/or well-being, unless whatever it is will brighten my day.

I realize this request is incredibly self-centered, but, hey, right now, I have to focus on myself and my work. Hopefully, I'll be able to resume my normal web-surfing soon.

TOT will continue without interruption during these next two weeks. I'll even try to throw in a few paragraphs of new material as often as possible.

As always, thanks for spending part of your day with me. I'll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

Tony Isabella

<< 02/11/2009 | 02/12/2009 | 02/13/2009 >>

Discuss this column with me at my Message Board. Also, read Heroes and Villains: Real and Imagined and view my Amazon Wish List.

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Zero Tonys
ZERO: Burn your money before buying any comic receiving this rating. It doesn't *necessarily* mean there's absolutely nothing of value here - though it *could* - but whatever value it might possess shrinks into insignificance before its overall awfulness.

ONE: Buy something else. Maybe I found something which wasn't completely dreadful in the item, but not enough for me to recommend it when there are better comics available. I only want what's best for you, my children.

TWO: Basic judgment call. I found some value, but not enough to recommend it. My review should give you enough info to decide if you want to take a chance on it. Are you feeling lucky today, punk? Well, are you?

THREE: This denotes something I find perfectly respectable. There are better books out there, but I wouldn't regret buying this item. Based on my review, you should be able to determine if it's of interest to you. Let the Force guide you.

FOUR: I recommend anything earning this rating. Unless you don't like the genre, subject matter, or past work of the creators, I believe you'll enjoy this item. Isn't it uncanny how I can look right into your soul that way?

FIVE: Anything getting this rating is among the best comicdom has to offer. You should buy/read this, even if the genre/subject matter doesn't appeal to you. It's for your own good. Me, I live for comics and books this good...but not in a pathetic "Comic-Book Guy" sort of way.

Please send material you would like me to review to:

Tony's Online Tips
840 Damon Drive
Medina, OH 44256

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