Review by Win Wiacek
Black Jack is a troubled loner genius, passionate outsider and amoral humanitarian. Hideously scarred, viciously spurning all human comfort, the unlicensed mercenary medic endures public condemnation and professional scorn, as he continually confronts the cutting edges of medicine and reality.
Osamu Tezuka’s tenth volume begins with ‘Avina’s Isle’ a fantastic doomed romance as a pearl diving South Sea native risks everything to marry his princess, utterly unaware of the sinister forces arrayed against him. There are some injuries no scalpel or suture can remedy.
‘The Mask Chosen’ is a revelatory tale of vengeance that cuts to the heart of Black Jack’s frightful past as the surgeon’s missing father emerges after decades with an outrageous request. ‘Revenge is My Life’ shows a different side to Man’s basest instinct in a passionate, convoluted story that sees the Surgical Samurai go to superhuman lengths to repair a shattered woman with every reason to hate him.
Possibly the most moving Black Jack story, ‘Unfinished House’ reveals why a man with all the cash that the rogue doctor has earned still lives in a ramshackle hovel (sample art). It’s a powerful mix of drama, slapstick and tragedy, a tale of debts honoured and obligations met. ‘Strangers at Sea’ is a tense nautical crime drama mystically transformed by the expansive, all-encompassing, uncompromising love Dolphins display for mankind. Bring tissues, many tissues. ‘Pinoko Returns’ stars the doctor’s big-hearted little assistant who adopts a thieving conman, only to suddenly disappear without trace. Black Jack, the man with no emotions, must weigh his heart’s greatest desire against the slimmest chance of finding his pestiferous creation.
Years before drug mules became a common maguffin ‘The Man Who Threw Up Capsules’ used the phenomenon to weave a complex tale of corrupt family practitioners and the price paid for social prestige, whilst ‘Flesh And Blood’ returns Black Jack to his dying father’s side and introduces a sister he never knew he had.
‘Burglary’ shows the power and weakness of utter devotion as the Super Surgeon is asked to reconstruct the unique prosthetic limbs of a total amputee. Who would steal such intensely personal items and why does Lady Jane not want her arms and legs back? ‘Ashes and Diamonds’ is much less disturbing: a cool, cynical caper starring a young, idealistic doctor hired by a rich old man to check the infamous medical maverick’s work. It seems the billionaire paid Black Jack a fortune to implant billions in gems inside his failing body, and now he needs to know if the notoriously greedy mercenary medic did so or just kept the loot for himself.
In Hawaii Black Jack survives a ‘Hot Night’ when an unlovable Vietnam veteran requests his expertise after nearly being killed for the third time. ‘Ransom’ sees an incomprehensible relationship blossom between a vicious kidnapper and his victim whilst ‘Mannequin and Officer’ is a story that could only happen in Japan, as a cop develops a peculiar affection for a traffic dummy. Luckily Black Jack owes him a favour.
‘Playing Doctor’ ends this volume on a high and happy note as a school bully and his favourite victim join forces to cure a little girl. But then, she has never met the real Black Jack.
Tezuka’s medical wizard operates in a cruel, corrupt and ultimately unknowable universe, and his escapades thrill, charm and offer bitter insight in overwhelmingly moving and addictive magical stories.