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Black Jack Vol. 2
posted November 26, 2008
 

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Creator: Osamu Tezuka
Publishing Information: Vertical, softcover, 304 pages, 2008, $16.95
Ordering Numbers: 9781934287286 (ISBN13)

I'm afraid to say that on a certain I don't get Black Jack. That's not to say it isn't extremely entertaining to read. Osamu Tezuka's precise, lively cartooning is one of the great pleasures in the world of comics; to deny yourself its joys is like living a life without every having eaten pancakes with maple syrup or getting to devour a perfectly constructed ham sandwich. You could, but why would you want to? There's great fun in just taking the stories as they come, bizarre fables that frequently drive up in the yard of good taste and leave a mess of tire tracks in the grass. More children are at risk in a single volume of Black Jack than in any three seasons of your average hospital show. He's unpleasant and capricious and yet if you see what's unfolding from his perspective it's hard to blame him. The world rises to meet the title character like some sort of dire, ever-changing death trap. He doesn't have adventures; he suffers ordeals.

Where I get lost is in trying to seize for myself a greater sense of Black Jack himself. I'm never quite sure how we're supposed to gauge his specific brand of forlorn, semi-angry, self-righteous acting out. The good doctor is like many similar North American characters in that his genius excuses much of his rough behavior, but I always get the sense that the rest of it is obvious given series of values A butting up against set of circumstances B in a formula that ends up being obvious to everyone but me. I always feel a bit untethered when I read Black Jack as a result, a little exhausted over what fresh brand of bad faith he might apply in the next moment of truth. Not getting to know the guy isn't a black mark, not in terms of my failure or another person's creative inclinations. It's just that after I read more than one or two of Black Jack's stories in a single sitting I wonder if there's anything there for me to know.