It’s been way too long since we last checked in on Master Keaton, but thankfully, it shouldn’t be too hard to jump back in. The series is an anthology collection of separate tales about the main character, his friends and family after all.
Master Keaton Vol. 10 (Viz Media)
Written and drawn by: Hokusei Katsushika and Naoki Urasawa
Translated and adapted by: John Werry
Lettering by: Steve Dutro
Since this is an anthology, let’s break down each story one by one and see how they all stack up.
What Makes A Good Pub
The Shooting Star, an old fashioned pub in London with a long history, is a place that Keaton likes to visit frequently. Warm atmosphere, friendly owner and employee, and it’s quiet. However, trouble comes calling when the owner’s deadbeat son comes back wanting money. It’s a quick tale, but a decent one. It features a solid mystery, the one-shot characters of the story are reasonably well-written and characterized, and the ending is rather fitting and concludes nicely. It’s bittersweet ultimately, but it does feel like it came together well. The only downside is there’s not much to talk about and Keaton feels kind of forgettable in the grand scheme. He solves the case, but that’s pretty much it.
Happy New Year
An acquaintance of Keaton from childhood runs into him again and needs some help. She wants him to pretend to be her fiancé and help her get custody her child, who is living with her deceased husband’s parents. Despite the sketchiness of that, the story here is actually pretty sweet and for what little time we spend with this woman, we get to know enough about her to understand where she’s coming from with this plan. She’s not badly characterized and the parents-in-law are understandable in their motivations as well. No one is really the bad guy… until an ex-boyfriend of hers enters the picture. Honestly, I think the story itself would have benefited more if it had dropped him and just spent more time with this woman, her son (who is a non-character in this really), Keaton, and the parents-in-law. There’s a lot more good drama in that instead of the artificial drama that comes from this random guy.
Resident of a Lightless World and The Woman Who Brought Light
This is one of two two-part stories in the book, this one focusing on a smuggling operation, Nazis, and a serial murder case where the victims are slashed up. This is my favorite story in the collection due to this extra story length, allowing for more room to develop the introduced characters, provide an interesting mystery with a twist, and allow for pretty powerful and tense moments. I’d rather not get into too many details, but this is a rather well-written tale of revenge and tragedy that the creative team crafted here. The story also feels rather important–and kind of depressing, in light of the rise of hate groups as of late, especially with the final words of the story.
While driving through Poland one very snowy winter day, Keaton comes across an old man wandering about by himself. He gives him a lift… which ends up going sideways when some thugs show up. In terms of the stories here, this is probably one of, if not the weakest tale in the actual volume. While the one-shot character for the chapter is certainly fun, the story is not especially good. Things just kind of happen, we get some revelation that is building to some twist that we instantly know what it’ll be, and the story ultimately just kind of stops. The villains are rather stupid and we get a bunch of exposition dumped on us instead of it naturally fitting into the story like the others. The whole thing just feels rather hollow.
Keaton the Home Tutor
Answering the call from an old college professor, Keaton takes on a small job as a tutor for a little girl, who is having trouble adjusting to her new life. She used to live with her dad in Australia, but after he died, she moved back in with her mother in Britain and just can’t (or won’t) get used to things. Overall, the chapter is very sweet with some very good bits involving Keaton, but the story itself feels like it has a bad guy who is not really needed. This should be more about Keaton helping the daughter to open up and soften the mother, who is very critical and harsh towards her. The end result is when both the girl and her mom have a moment at the end, it doesn’t feel as earned as it could have been, since neither really turned around on how each other were feeling.
An Incident Among Women
A woman is murdered and almost everyone suspects that her nephew killed her. However, the woman’s elderly neighbor thinks otherwise, going off some clues that may not seem like much to most people, but say a lot to her. This is my second favorite chapter of the book due to a combination of both the story’s writing and the one-shot character introduced, Geri Barnum. Barnum is a very fun individual who has some great banter with Keaton and helps him solve the case. The mystery itself is also generally good, paced so that everything is given enough time to be focused on, and the conclusion makes sense and ends on a good note. It does play into that old stereotype that men just do not remotely understand women at all and can’t fathom things like they can, which is a bit eye-rolling. Still, it’s a pretty fun tale and definitely worth a read.
Town of Truth
An elderly English gentleman has come to Japan looking for something. A long time ago, during World War II, Japan has set up war camps to house prisoners, despite them saying they never did on their land. The man wants to see if he can find the one he was in… but it seems almost like a lost cause. Alongside the first two-parter, this is definitely one of the more powerful stories of the collection, reflecting on an ugly part of Japanese history that their government and people would rather forget or purge away. While the idea may not seem like much to people in America or in Europe, it definitely holds more weight that a story like this exists and is told by Japanese creators to let the Japanese not forget what happened as time moves on. The writing is both solid and handles this subject well without talking down to people or being heavy handed. It’s rather emotionally powerful as we read about these characters and the art really stands out by capturing everyone’s body language so well. It’s also one of the few times we see a double-page spread in the series and its use is very effective.
A man is trying to flee from the Romanian Secret Police after apparently stealing a lot of money from the government and killing a higher up. However, Keaton jumps in to help him out at the behest of the man’s son, who is about to get married. Of all the one-shot stories we had, this one could have benefitted the most from being a two-parter in my humble opinion. There’s a lot going on here with the guy trying to reconnect with his son by reaching his wedding, the secret police hunting him down to get their money back, the backstory and history of the character, and so on. There’s so much crammed into this single story that, while it does its best within the small page limit and ends on a good note, needed some spacing out so we could develop these ideas some more. At the very least, the creators could have made the opening sequence a bit shorter than what it was to free up some pages.
Oliver Woodworth, a kid that Keaton used to know whose all grown up now, has come before our titular character with a simple request: let him be his assistant. Our lead character doesn’t want that, but Oliver isn’t going to take no for answer. The story overall is very predictable and seems like a recycled plot from some TV show or cartoon, with a guy who wants to be our hero’s helper, but is constantly screwing things up and making life for Keaton a pain. Eventually he leaves after learning a valuable lesson and becomes a better person for it. It’s not a badly told story, but it just doesn’t really leave much of an impression in the grand scheme of things.
The Village That God Loved and The Village of a Saint
Two police detectives have come to a small village in Wales on the hunt for a murder suspect who may have fled to the area. They don’t know why and the villagers are acting rather strange and nonplussed about the whole situation, constantly talking about how God blessed the land and village. This is the other two-parter in the collection and it’s a mixed bag. On one hand, it has this great buildup with the detectives, and eventually Keaton, getting pulled into this village’s mysteries and having the people just seeming off the entire time. You don’t know why exactly and it all builds to a great ending to the first part when things go off the rails. Keaton really shines, one of the detectives is pretty well-characterized, and the conclusion works to some degree. On the flip side though, the conclusion with the villagers is rather weak. It feels too easy and they end up almost having no consequences to what they did. It feels like they should have gotten hit a bit more for what they ultimately did.
Master Keaton Vol. 10 is a solid collection of short stories where the hits mostly outweigh all the misses. There’s a great collection of stories that have a bit more power to them than usual, especially involving real world issues, and the volume packs some great one-shot characters. Its only real misstep is that Keaton didn’t feel as a big of a character in the volume and some plots feel overcomplicated with the addition of a villain. Still, if you’ve enjoyed the previous volumes, you’re sure to like this one.