Master Keaton Volume 7
As a mature series, Master Keaton has settled into a groove that I find more enjoyable than I thought I would. That makes sense, since this volume seven is just past the halfway point of the eventual 12-volume Viz English run. (Assuming I’ve counted correctly. The Japanese series ran 18 books of 8 chapters each, but each translated volume contains 12 chapters, meaning that this volume 7 collects the original volume 10 and half of 11.)
Each of these chapters are stand-alone stories, and most concentrate more on characterization than archeological trivia, which plays to Naoki Urasawa’s artistic strengths, as he’s a wonder with expressions and emotional pacing.
The first story, “Behind the Mask”, is a standout in this area, exploring the nature of heroism, particularly when it comes to those kids look up to. A former TV Western star is being pursued by investigator Keaton for insurance fraud. When the two men take a plane back to London, they debate righteousness, corruption, and villainy until a crisis requires their cooperation in the face of widespread panic.
Of course, the story does have an element that reveals its age (1989) — a child on the airplane has a realistic-looking toy gun. Not only are such things no longer sold as toys in many locations, it would never be allowed on a plane these days. The chapter involving a Communist father hating his new-capitalist son is also rather period.
Another chapter uses the unique properties of the cheap East German car the Trabant, as well as wildlife facts, to good effect in escaping some assassins. These types of stories are my least favorite, although they’re always well-done in showing the action of the chase.
Since Keaton loves archaeology, it shouldn’t be a surprise that some tales involve history and the effects of memory on the present day. One in particular pits Egyptologists and their sons against each other for vengeance. Another features a soldier’s version of justice against a protected officer. A third combines a search for artifacts with a father’s disapproval over a young couple.
Urasawa is also terrific at drawing animals, which adds an additional level to a piece narrated by a brewery cat about loyalty to those you trust. Another chapter features an officer trying to live up to his father’s legacy when it comes to working with police dogs. That one’s a bit overdramatic, but the dog being smarter than his handler is amusing.
Keaton now has a business, an investigative partnership on London’s Baker Street with Daniel O’Connell. That’s another great story, one that combines a doomed romance for Daniel with a case with a missing heir. It’s fairly obvious early on that Daniel isn’t due for a happy ending, but the portrayal of the sparkle of a new relationship is wonderful if eventually heartbreaking.
Overall, the stunning art overcomes any dated references, and there were more chapters I enjoyed than didn’t in this installment. (The publisher provided a review copy.)