So it’s not officially the start of summer by calendar date, but when temperatures get this hot, my eyeballs turn to lighter reading to soothe the heat-addled brain. Given my later-in-life appreciation for manga, Osamu Tezuka always proves to be a reliable go-to choice. In the multi-volume Black Jack – which debuted in Japan in the 1970s to mega-success, and recently made available in full in English translation from the fabulous boutique press, Vertical, Inc. – the versatile, prolific, late ‘godfather of manga’ most certainly puts his medical degree (yes, that’s Dr. Tezuka!) to entertaining use.
Black Jack is a renegade doctor without a license, who eschews the controlling – too often corrupt – medical establishment. He charges (and receives) the most exorbitant fees to work medical miracles. With his heavily scarred face, his dramatic black cloak, his shock of black-and-white-unruly hair, he’s quite the distinctively menacing sight. But he’s also got a caring, suffering heart hidden deep within that he only shows bare glimpses of at the most unexpected moments.T
The good doctor will stop at nothing to save a life, regardless of the danger or risks (even to himself). He saves an innocent young man by giving him the face of an evil, wealthy tycoon heir. He tracks down a serial killer whose image haunts a young woman with a recent corneal transplant. He removes a talking cystoma from a young woman which proves to be her not-fully-developed twin sister; he remolds the unfinished, unwanted body pieces into an adorable little girl, who becomes his pouting, lisping, comical sidekick Pinoko.
He says a tearful goodbye to his savior and mentor – Dr. Honma who diligently saved Jack as a young boy after a horrendous accident – after learning yet another lesson in the protective powers of the human body. He reunites briefly with the love of his life, whom he was forced to save only to lose her forever. He ‘fixes’ an overzealous computer with destructive delusions of grandeur, helps a young boy with polio achieve his dream, and manages to gives new life to a talented pair of hands.
So far, Vertical has managed to publish 11 volumes (with more on the way!), each filled with about a dozen stories of Black Jack’s around-the-world, often other-worldly adventures. If you read them slowly (if you can manage a little self-control? … good luck with that!), you should be able to last out much of the summer … here’s hoping, anyway.
To check out other volumes of Black Jack on BookDragon, click here.
Readers: Young Adult, Adult
Published: 2008 (United States)