In this third of the 17 Black Jack books we learn more about the world surrounding Jack. A little more is revealed about his bizarre sidekick Pinoko, who starts to seem like less of an irritant and more of a deeply strange and unusual artefact from Jack’s history. Some of the ‘who’, ‘what’ and ‘how’ questions you’ll have are answered here, but most importantly there’s a ‘why’ answered too, providing a bit of a new angle on the character.
We also get to see more of the legitimate medical world, which Jack operates outside of. Previous books have suggested that the surgical fraternity has a one-sided and negative view of Jack. In this book we’re shown that this isn’t necessarily universal. The older generation of practitioners – the head surgeons and hospital bosses – may have a low regard for Jack’s self-perpetuated (if not entirely true) image of a mercenary back-street surgeon. But the next generation of doctors are coming out of medical school with rumours of his brilliance on their lips, regarding this enigmatic maverick as more of the cult hero he really is.
Along the way we’re treated to an above average series of set-piece stories, including some absolute corkers. A classic example is the one in which both a gunshot victim and a car crash victim crawl to his door. Jack treats them separately but it turns out that one is a multi-million Yen bank robber, the other the cop who’s spent years hunting him down. Jack manipulates them both as he heals their wounds, simultaneously fixing righted wrongs, while still managing to maintain his liberalist demeanour. In another story, he manages to perform surgery on himself while stuck in the Australian outback, fighting off wild dogs with his scalpel; in yet another he treats the wife and child of a defecting fighter pilot, who have medical problems too complex for their own country’s doctors to treat.
Black Jack is on form with this volume. Tezuka’s medical inventiveness ensures that the stories keep rolling and, while they’re fantastical, they remain deeply rooted in the practice and innate drama of surgery. Tezuka’s art draws you into the characters further, with his clever blend of caricature and draftsmanship. It’s a great series, as long as you can handle the inevitable desire you’ll have to own all 17 books.
More Black Jack reviews:
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Other books by Osamu Tezuka:
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