Pluto: 001

Written and drawn by Naoki Urasawa. Based on Astro Boy by Osamu Tezuka.

Published by Viz Media

Japanese comics are an unknown territory for me but part of writing this blog is to discover what it is about comics that I enjoy so much. To do that I must read more widely and a big part of that will be reading manga. The book itself is smaller than most books I read and of course art that reads back to front and right to left. Pluto is based on Astroboy, of which I know next to nothing but it did not hinder my enjoyment of the book.

Opening on the scene of a large forest fire we discover that Mont Blanc, “the beloved Robot of the Swiss Forestry Service” has been destroyed and that Inspector Gesicht of Interpol is sent to investigate. He too is a robot, a top of the line detective model, but who can pass as human.  Someone is destroying the seven Great Robots, the most advanced and in theory most destructive of their kind. The robots are all of differing construction, some humanoid and the others of varying robotic types. The size and form of the robot does not seem relate to their power.

This is rich and complex story, with a deep history to the world that is left to the reader to discover. The interlude in Scotland with the robot North No. 2 is haunting and melancholy and juxtaposes well the raucous battle and family life of the mighty Brando.

Reading from right to left is intrusive at first, and although I never become comfortable with it, the act of having to consciously decide which panel to read next slows down my reading process and makes the experience more deliberate.

The art has a clean, clear line with exteriors that are almost photographic yet characters that can be cartoonish-reminding me to read more European comics and learn more on the ligne claire style of Herge. Urasawa uses lots of small panels, many of them wordless which keeps the pace brisk. The book reads fast but covers a lot of ground and presents the art well in the small digest size.

Should I buy it? If like me you want to read some manga and need a starting point Pluto is a great choice. The art and storytelling are different to many Western books. I will be reading and reviewing the next volumes and reading more manga. Akira and 20th Century Boys look like the big favourites.

Next week: More Batman. Nolan and crew did an excellent job with the movie and certainly inspired me to look at more Batman books. Batman: Year 100 by modern comics god Paul Pope.

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2 Responses to Pluto: 001

  1. Anon says:

    Urasawa is a great place to start. His pacing is excellent, his art is clear and he’s a brilliant storyteller.

    I also would recommend: Planetes and, if you want something light and comedic, Yotsuba.

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