Thursday, February 11, 2010

Black Jack volume 8

What I try to do with reviews at this Bookshelf blog is keep it simple and spoiler-free, and let you know whether I'd recommend you pick up a copy of what I just read. Seems to work okay. This time, a brief review of Black Jack volume 8 (Vertical, 2009)

They're coming thick and fast now, aren't they? It really does seem like just a few months ago that I was idly hoping, in the pages of Reprint This!, to one day see Osamu Tezuka's Black Jack collected in English, and here we are almost halfway through the series. Vertical's eighth volume (of a planned seventeen) was released a couple of months ago. The ninth is said to be out there already, but Diamond does not appear to have shipped it to comic stores yet. Then again, well, it is Diamond. It's wrong to expect miracles.

By this point, there is probably no particular reason to include regular reviews of Black Jack here at the Bookshelf beyond the fact that it's my darn blog and I'll write about what I want to. We're almost two years into the run; you've either bought in to one of comics' best treasures, a wonderfully clever mix of inventive stories and eye-poppingly good art, or you're totally out of the loop. But just in case you're still on the fence or haven't quite got around to trying out Black Jack, the series is told with minimal continuity in a collection of 20-odd page stories, so any book is a good starting place.

In the eighth volume, there's a terrific story about a desperate woman who switched babies in the maternity ward, and, years later, is blackmailed by a nurse who caught her in the act. Tezuka does a magnificent job in just a few panels capturing the dismissive cruelty of the blackmailer, leading up to a great courtroom scene that sees Black Jack appearing as a surprise witness to the proceedings and a fabulous twist ending. There's another good tale which puts Black Jack in the background and uses Pinocho, disobeying his orders and following him, as the central character. There are mobsters and yokels and utterly bizarre ailments and illnesses, and a masterfully-told story about a comic artist who, forced by illness to suspend his wildly popular story on a cliffhanger, hopes for just a few more hours to resume the series and satisfy his audience. It's a wonderful collection, and one your bookshelf should have, just like the rest of the series. Highly recommended.

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