Osamu Tezuka's renegade super-surgeon returns in Black Jack Volume 3 [Vertical; $16.95]. I'm not quite ready to call this series, as some have done, the best work of the creator of Astro Boy, MW, Ode to Kirihito, and Phoenix, but the brilliant unlicenced doctor is my favorite Tezuka character. Ostensibly a mercenary who cares only for his enormous fees, Black Jack often emerges in these stories as a force of justice, a savior, and, sometimes, a proud man forced to face the limitations of even his own remarkable skills.
There are fifteen stories in this volume and, as is the norm for the series, some could be categorized as fantasy, horror, and science fiction. Though Tezuka had a medical degree and calls on that knowledge in his work, he's willing to stretch reality for a story and there are some great ones here.
In one tale, a strange malady is causing animals and people to shrink until their bodies can no longer support them. In another, Black Jack is forced to operate on himself under the most extreme conditions. Tezuka takes his protagonist all around the world in search of his high fees and, perhaps, redemption.
The supporting characters are as fascinating as Black Jack. He lives with Pinoko, a 18-year-old woman in the artificial body of a child who loves him despite the impossibility of that love. He crosses scalpels with Doctor Kiriko, a doctor who charges his large fees to end the lives of his patients.
In a story based on real-life events in the 1970s, Black Jack treats a baby abandoned in a coin locker. A bullying classmate of Pinoko's steals a purse and, using the key in the purse, finds the baby. Showing unexpected compassion, the teenager brings the baby to Black Jack. In a book filled with great stories, this character study is one of the best.
I consider Black Jack Volume 3 and its previous volumes must reading for comics aficionados. Tezuka's skill is rightfully legendary; he flawlessly combines action, drama, and even humor in compelling human stories.
Sorting through books recently, I came across 2007's The Art of Bryan Talbot [NBM Publishing; $19.95]. Talbot is the immensely talented creator of such legendary graphic novels as The Adventures of Luther Arkwright, A Tale of One Bad Rat and Alice In Sunderland. While I'm a story guy first and foremost, I enthusiastically agree that Talbot's art is worthy of a showcase like this one.
With dimensions of 11.8 x 8.9 inches, this 100-page softcover book is large enough to do justice to the art. Following an intro by Neil Gaiman, Talbot takes us on a tour of his artistic life and career that allows us to view his progress along the way. Within a few dozen pages, we get illustrations that are simply stunning in their detail and power. Overall, it's a nice mix of what you would expect from a book like this and some glorious surprises. You get a lot of neat stuff for your twenty bucks.
With illustrations by Jeff Miracola, Oliver Chin's Welcome to Monster Isle [Immedium; $15.95] is a children's book I would have loved to have read to my own kids. Of course, what with Eddie now 20 and Kelly 17, that isn't likely to happen.
When the vacationing Summers family goes on a boat ride with the Skipper and his first mate Tina, a storm damages their ship and deposits them on an island inhabited by familiar giant creatures from the big-footed Yowie to the fire-breathing Zillard. The book puts its human heroes in a bit more peril than is the norm for such books, but never in a truly scary manner. The kids will love these monsters and adults reading this book to those kids will appreciate the homages, the lively plot, and the fun art.
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.
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