The suspense manga, Master Keaton, was one of the early works of award-winning mangaka (creator) Naoki Urasawa. First published in the late 1980s, Master Keaton was created and drawn by Urasawa, who co-produced the story with Hokusei Katsushika and Takashi Nagasaki.
For the first time, the series is being released in English. VIZ Media is publishing Master Keaton as a 12-volume manga series in a deluxe graphic novel format, with each volume including a few pages of full-color material to go along with the black and white comics. Beginning with its December 2014, Master Keaton is being published quarterly under the company’s VIZ Signature imprint and is rated “‘T+’ for Older Teens.” Each volume of Master Keaton carries an MSRP of $19.99 in the United States, $22.99 in Canada, and £12.99 in the United Kingdom.
Master Keaton focuses on 30-something Taichi Hiraga Keaton, the son of a Japanese zoologist and an English noblewoman who is a mathematician. Although Keaton is an archaeology professor, most of the series' action focuses on Keaton's other job. He is a part-time insurance investigator known for his successful and unorthodox methods of investigation. His abilities are based on the fact that he is Oxford-educated in archaeology and that he is also a former member of the British elite special forces, the SAS (Special Air Service). Master Keaton uses his knowledge and combat training to uncover buried secrets, thwart would-be villains, pursue the truth, and sometimes lend a helping hand.
Master Keaton, Vol. 2 (12 chapters) opens with “Fire & Ice.” This is the tale of a stolen Olympic gold medal and the story of two Irish competitive long-distance runners, Sir Charles Fireman and Brian Higgins. Their relationship will yield clues to the theft and will reveal the secrets of a cheating scandal. In “Red Moon,” Keaton is in West Germany investigating an insurance policy that belonged to the husband of a woman who died mysteriously. Soon, Keaton believes that he is on the track of what may be a serial killer who has weaponized a deadly disease.
In “Under the Roofs of Paris,” Keaton learns the history of his beloved Professor Yuri Scott. Keaton's father, Taihei Hiraga, stars in “Flowers for Everyone,” in which he tries to find a missing dog that belongs to a childhood playmate of his son's. Also, Keaton faces off against murderous neo-Nazis out for Turkish immigrant blood in the story, “Black Forest.”
THE LOWDOWN: Once again, I will state that anyone who reads my reviews on a regular basis knows that I am a huge admirer of Naoki Urasawa. Some might even say that I am a raving fan boy when it comes Master Urasawa.
After reading the first volume, I could say that I liked Master Keaton. After reading Master Keaton Volume 2, I have to admit that I absolutely love Master Keaton. I could read this manga all day long. I find it hard to believe that this is an early work of Uraswawa's. There is little about this manga that seems “early.”
I think John Werry, who translates the Japanese version of Master Keaton and writes the English script adaptation, is doing some masterful work here. The dialogue is clean and straight-forward, and captures the nuances in the moods of the characters. Werry conveys such strong emotions as yearning and longing, but shows his writing strength in capturing the banal evil and callous cruelty of the neo-Nazis in “Black Forest.” I'm sure there must be an Eisner Award category for the kind of work that Werry does.
POSSIBLE AUDIENCE: Fans of Naoki Urasawa will want to read the VIZ Signature series, Master Keaton.