Book: Black Jack, volume 1
Author/artist: Osamu Tezuka
Published: 2008 (Veritcal) (this edition)
And I'm off in the uncharted (for me) territory of serial manga without the reassuring map of all volumes at hand ready to read like the straight clear road that takes me home every night.
You guys, I love it.
Black Jack is a series of interlocking but not necessarily chronologically dependent stories about the best surgeon in the world who was stitched back together and saved from death by a mentor when he was young. Now he's uncertified, mysterious, and called in for all sorts of weird-ass surgery needs.
I think my favorite in this volume was when this guy had a face tumor, which is a Japanese demon in the form of a gross face that grows usually on someone's like knee or chest or something - only this guy's had covered his actual face. It talks, and says they'll never be able to cut out the evil, but Black Jack cuts it off anyway and it turns out the guy is a serial killer whose urges subside when the face tumor is all up in his business. So when it's not there anymore, he kills again, and then the demon grows back and makes the guy throw himself off a cliff to stop the killings.
You can find all sorts of unexpected but poetic justice like that in here, starting from the very first story where a rich brat is beat up in a car accident and they sentence a poor witness to death for "causing" the accident because they need new body parts to restore him to life, but it turns out the only thing Black Jack transfers is the brat's face to the poor honest witness's body.
At some point you meet Black Jack's old paramour's "brother," whose "sister" was "disfigured beyond repair" in the "war," and those quotation marks are winking so hard at you that I should've already put in a big ol' SPOILER warning. And Black Jack goes back to his mentor and tries to save him when he hears he's ailing, and there's a computer who thinks it's a person so Black Jack comes in to fix it, and there are these delicious small teases of his past sprinkled among the audacity of saving human lives that I'm looking forward to piecing together in future volumes.
The art is a shrewd mix of cartoon people and realistic surgery shots, rounded and friendly but still horrifying when necessary, and sometimes such a mixture that it takes an extra minute to figure out what's so unsettling about it. And Black Jack himself is, there's not another word for it, just plain cool.
But yeah, I think this series pushes past my need for a whole story at once by being self-contained pieces that fit together well. Back to the library, and I will pick up volume 2 when I find it.