Master Keaton is one of the early manga from award-winning mangaka Naoki Urasawa and was first published in the late 1980s. This manga of suspense and adventure was created and drawn by Urasawa, who co-produced the story with Hokusei Katsushika and Takashi Nagasaki.
For the first time, VIZ Media is publishing Master Keaton in English, as a 12-volume manga series in a deluxe graphic novel format called the “Perfect Edition.” Each volume includes a few pages of full-color material to go along with the black and white comics. Since December 2014, Master Keaton has been published quarterly under the VIZ Signature imprint.
Master Keaton focuses on 30-something Taichi Hiraga Keaton, the son of a Japanese zoologist and an English noblewoman and mathematician. Although Keaton is an archaeology professor, most of the series' action focuses on Keaton's job as a part-time insurance investigator. Known for his successful and unorthodox methods of investigation, Keaton's abilities are based on his Oxford education in archaeology and also on his time as a member of the British elite special forces, the SAS (Special Air Service). Keaton uses his knowledge and combat training to uncover buried secrets, to thwart would-be villains, to pursue the truth, and sometimes to lend a helping hand.
Master Keaton: The Perfect Edition, Vol. 5 (13 chapters) opens with a two-chapter story that references the name, “Elsa Lanchester.” How is that name connected to murder and an invasion of classic movie monsters? The ghosts of the Falklands War return in the story of “David Bobbid.” The chapter entitled “The Leopard's Cage” launches an adventure in which Keaton must save a British royal trapped in Iraq just before the first Iraq War (Operation: Desert Shield/Storm). However, a matter of revenge and a “hero” of the Iraq/Iran War greatly complicates Keaton's mission.
THE LOWDOWN: I think that I have run out of ways to praise the Master Keaton manga. Anyone who is regular reader of my manga reviews for the ComicBookBin knows that I rarely have a complaint about the work of mangaka Naoki Urasawa, whom I consider one of the greatest comics and manga creators of all time. My VIZ Media rep is basically giving me a gift when he sends a copy of Master Keaton for review.
Each volume has at least one story arc or chapter that I consider among the series' best. Master Keaton: The Perfect Edition Volume 5 has two story arcs and one single-chapter tale that I can count among the series best. The Iraq-set story exemplifies the depth to which Urasawa and Hokusei Katsushika and Takashi Nagasaki plumb history for research. This story not only references the lead-up to the first Gulf War, but it also digs into the gruesome war between Iran and Iraq that churned during the 1980s. In the field of war comics, Garth Ennis seems like the only other comics creator that works as hard as Urasawa and company. In the case of Master Keaton, military history, from the ancient to the recent, is just one topic in the vast expanse of subject matter that plays a part in Master Keaton.
POSSIBLE AUDIENCE: Fans of Naoki Urasawa must have the VIZ Signature series, Master Keaton.