The series follows the adventures of Black Jack, a man who is the greatest surgeon in the world, able to perform marvelous feats of scalpelry while at the same time teaching a good lesson to all those who act out of greed, hate, or ignorance. But he's also got a somewhat dark side -- he's unlicensed and works illegally -- which adds a little dash of danger to his actions. Each volume contains multiple episodes that range in length from twenty to forty pages. Typically, an episode runs like this: some kind of crazy accident occurs, Black Jack is called in to work his magic, but there is an unexpected twist problem, but Black Jack overcomes it, and the tale ends with a poignant moment that lays out the moral of the story. If that sounds boring or simple, trust me, these stories are anything but: the plots are almost manic, energy bounces off of every page, and you can never guess what lies around the next corner.
(read right to left)
It's not all fun and games and necrotic fingers -- there is some serious drama packed into these books. In one episode, Black Jack heals a killer whale that shows up on the beach every day with new gashes and bruises. Our hero gains the trust of the animal and they become friends. But then the good doctor learns that the whale might be involved in attacks on people, and he must decide whether to continue treating the animal or let it die. It might sound sappy, but I'm not kidding: the ending really, really got to me, people. This is just one story of many -- and they're all good.
The art is a big part of the book's success. Tezuka is a master of pacing, and the art zips along, suspense building with every panel. Moreover, he's a fantastic cartoonist. One of my favorite aspects of these books is the way that he spends time to make every person unique and interesting. I'm not just talking about major characters, or even the characters with dialogue -- I mean everybody in there, down to every "extra" that only appears in one panel, is lovingly drawn. This page below is the first time we meet Black Jack. It's a great entrance for the guy, but I also want you to look at the other people coming off the plane.
We never see them again, but each one looks like he or she could be the star in his or her own series. I've never seen another comic book that gives such detail and care to the extras, and Tezuka keeps it up through every single panel. It all helps to add to the fun.
Each book roars by like a finely-tuned Ferrari. To quote Ferris Bueller, they are "so choice." If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up.
Go here to see free previews of the first three volumes in the series. You can buy the books here: Black Jack, Volume 1 and Black Jack, Volume 2
Disclaimer: This review is based on complimentary copies provided by the publisher.