Master Keaton Volume 3
I was concerned about this in my review of volume 2, but Master Keaton volume 3, aside from a couple of brief nods to archaeology, has turned Taichi Hiraga Keaton into a globe-trotting adventurer, which makes the stories more generic and seemingly more of their time.
Several times while reading through the encounters in this installment, I found myself thinking, “oh, yeah, that was a thing we were concerned about in the 80s, wasn’t it?” In one two-parter, Keaton serves as a hostage negotiator for a Japanese executive kidnapped in Wales. He is a captive during a duel between two former military officers from El Salvador. He has to disarm a bomb planted by the IRA in a particularly Macguyer-ish story. In the most obvious attempt at aiming at the heartstrings, a student from a small town collapses and dies in the big city, and a reporter is determined to find out why so many people passed by without helping him.
A woman archaeologist (or, as an old woman has it, “the lady scholar”) is protecting a set of ruins, due to be destroyed, with a shotgun, because she hopes to find evidence of an earlier matrilineal culture. The new heir wants to make the ancient Roman hill tomb mound into a motorcycle racing course. He’s also a jerk, telling her she’s not too old or ugly to get a man and needs to leave to get back to “women’s work”. If this story were told today, it would still be as believable, but everyone’s sexism would be more subtle.
The chapter length, with most stories taking only one (although a few get a second chapter to conclude), means that I was sometimes left wishing for more. The opening chapter, for example, sends Keaton to a dilapidated monastery in Scotland, where he adopts an injured rabbit, finds a missing child, keeps a drunk, widowed retiree company, and finds out about a departed monk who prophesied a miracle. That’s an awful lot for 26 pages, although it’s all gorgeously illustrated by Naoki Urasawa. I applaud Viz for keeping the first eight pages in color, which does a wonderful job establishing the setting. I did want to find out what happened to the rabbit, though, let alone how the circumstances affected the participants afterwards. I often wonder that while reading this book.
Urasawa is particularly good illustrating animals, which made the chapter about Keaton having to outwit a trained military attack dog all the more attractive, even though the dog is mean and vicious. The next chapter gives us a different kind of canine, as Keaton visits his father, who’s living with Keaton’s daughter. Keaton’s dad is a zoologist, and while the story involving horse racing and memory is ambitious, I’m not sure it holds together. It is comforting, though. As is the final story in the volume, a Christmas tale of competitive businessmen spending the holiday together drinking, and the honesty that comes out as a result.