Last week Vertical Press released a collection of Osamu Tezuka’s Black Jack. I was excited to check it out because Tezuka's Apollo’s Song is easily one of the best comics ever. It's about a guy who hates love. He tortures animals and is a complete misogynist. His hate is so terrible that a God decides to torture/teach him by forcing to repeatedly love and lose the same woman for all eternity. Tezuka is at his best because he is focused on a big central theme like love. The big problem I have with his other works like Buddha of Phoenix is that they ramble without a central focus. In Apollo's Song Tezuka uses his Manga art style to enhance the parable of the story. The characters are archetypes and the art plays into that.
From the preview on Vertical's website Black Jack seems like it has a similar tone to Apollo's Song. Both stories have the same parable feeling. Like a story you would read in a mythology textbook that has been passed by word of mouth. Stories like this have a weird level of specificity that brings them to reality. Sort of like a dude's eye getting plucked out by a raven or in the case of Black Jack, a surgeon with a scar across his face. In the first story, an angry rich man's good for nothing son gets in a car wreck. The son is beyond repair and the father seeks a surgeon who can heal his son. No reputable doctor can guarantee success so he turns to the mysterious Black Jack.
The story begins in full manga mode. Many of the characters have the classic exaggerated nose and the tone is silly despite the tragic nature of the events. It's not till Black Jack shows up on page ten that the story begins to take shape. He instantly takes control of the story and shifts it to a creepier tone. The manga silliness is lost and we see panels of characters weeping and a really realistic surgery scene.
The second preview starts with Black Jack hanging out with a little girl. He goes into a flash back and tells her a story of a whale he used to perform surgery on. It’s kind of crazy to think about this older, obviously sad guy, telling this little girl about one of the saddest stories of his life. Saddness and loss seem to be the overall themes of these two previews and if all the Black Jack stories are this good it is undoubtedly a classic.