Monster Vol. 5 (Viz Signature)

monsterheaderThe latest volume of this manga thriller pushes the tension up with a new batch of murderous murderers.



222 pages B&W; $9.99

(W/A: Naoki Urasawa)




Naoki Urasawa's Monster is an 18-volume manga suspense thriller about Tenma, a young Japanese doctor who sacrificed his promising career at a German hospital by saving the life of a young boy over a politician because the boy had come into the hospital first. Tenma discovers ten years later that little Johan grew up to be the world's most dangerous serial killer–and possibly the Anti-Christ. Johan sees Tenma as a father figure, but Tenma knows he has to destroy the monster he created. As he follows Johan's trail, learning about his past, Tenma gets a little too involved and is soon wanted as the prime suspect for the serial killings.



The first few books are drifter tales that will satisfy anyone with a Fugitive fix, but sometimes they feel a little too episodic. If it isn't introducing a new character, it probably reads something like this: Tenma walks into a new town and is greeted with suspicious glares. He digs up some info about Johan's past and soon falls into a dangerous situation that calls for someone with expert surgical skills to save the day. The locals figure out he's a wanted man, but it's okay because they already decided he's okay in their book. And he wanders on.



By vol. 5, the pieces are starting to come together, and it's showing promise of delivering the goods to be the epic thriller it's been hyped as. It's now clear that Johan isn't just a regular killer: He's a full blown, calculating, puppet master of death, committed to spreading hate and murder until he's the last man on Earth. And though his manipulative presence is felt throughout this latest volume, he doesn't actually make an appearance. Instead, the book focuses on more minor characters. In "Monster's Abyss" another serial killer is introduced who's serving time for his crimes and under the study of psychologist Rudy Gillen. Are his murders connected to Johan? Then, in "Happy Holidays," Johan's sister tracks down the man who killed her foster parents. The last few chapters turn to Inspector Lunge, who's convinced that Tenma has multiple personality disorder and that Johan is just his invented alter-ego. He uses yet another murderer, this time a copy-cat killer, to set a trap for the good Doctor.



There are a lot of characters in Monster, but one of Urasawa's strengths is his attention to detail. It's easy to keep track of things when each character has a unique look, manner, and voice to them. His mastery of expression gives them life and they act with cinematic subtlety. You can look at any single picture of a character and have a good idea about who they are: Of course Tenma's father-in-law is trouble, look at his evil eyebrows. It almost seems like that sort of predictability might hurt a suspense story, but the twists and turns here aren't about people's hidden agenda's. The mystery is built on Johan's past and what he's going to do next.



Anyone who's followed the series up until now should keep going, as you'll like where it's heading. Readers who are new to the series will definitely want to start with the first volume. It's pretty good, but just keep in mind it'll take two or three more books to really pick up steam.

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