Monday, May 18, 2009

Black Jack volume 4

Here's how this works. I read a book or two and tell you about them and try not to get too long-winded. This time, a review of Black Jack vol. four (Vertical, 2009).

I haven't written anything about Osamu Tezuka in a little while (but stay tuned to my Reprint This! blog for more about him next month), and while I've elected against reviewing every book in a series, I did want to mention, for those six or seven of you out there who haven't signed on to the medical mysteries of Black Jack that Vertical is up to the fifth of their planned seventeen-volume series. Book five is due to ship to US stores in a week or so, but, eternally behind, I just finished the fourth collection and wanted to tell you how fun it is.

Vertical and Diamond have concluded their three-book run of variant, hardcover editions, and so now they're all paperbacks only. Book three, incidentally, included a wonderful little essay detailing the original publication history of the series and details of the twelve episodes of Black Jack that Tezuka declined to ever reprint, so trainspotters out there like myself definitely need to pick that one up. From the fourth book, it's paperback-only editions, each one reprinting more than a dozen episodes. You get the expected wonderful mix of artwork that rockets from vibrant and exaggerated to extremely detailed, unpredictable stories that take an already wild premise and run in crazy directions with it, and one of my favorite characters in comics: a self-assured, unbelievably talented, stoic but all-too-human doctor pitting his skills against far-out diseases and all-too common beauracracy and corporate greed. Sometimes it seems the done-in-one episodic nature feels a little constricting, but Tezuka was so darn talented that he could even have characters break the fourth wall and remind their fellows that this isn't a serial and they only have eight pages to finish, and it feels like the most natural thing in the world.

I realize I'm not saying much about Black Jack that hasn't already been said, but these really are some of the best comics ever, and your bookshelf is demanding them. Vertical definitely deserves your support for this wonderful series of releases, and I hope the market stays strong to keep it going 'til the end. Very highly recommended.

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