The newest volume of Master Keaton is upon us. Let’s see what it has to offer.
Writer/Artist: Hokusei Katsushika, Naoki Urasawa
Translated/Adapted by: John Werry
Lettering by: Steve Dutro
Publisher: Viz Media
Since this is an anthology, let’s break down each story one by one and see how they all stack up.
The Sunset over Lunedale
An ex-soldier’s son dies one day due to an drug overdose and the man decides to figure why, since he hadn’t seen him in several years. Along the way, the dad crosses paths with Keaton, who is looking for the insurance beneficiary for his son. Overall, the tale is simple, but effective. While there’s not a lot of time to build up the dad as a character, you do get to know enough about him to understand how he’s feeling. The pacing isn’t too bad either and the story isn’t overcomplicated or anything of the sort. The villain is predictable and the ending is abrupt, but the story is very sweet and I do like how things conclude here.
As two twins try to set up a lodge in France, Keaton’s father, Taihei, appears there with a baby. He tells the men that the baby’s mother has passed on and she believes one of them is the father, leaving a letter behind with who the man is. The story is alright, but not really special. We don’t spend enough time with each guy to really develop them or see why they would come around on being fathers, since it’s almost a switch from them going from disliking to liking the baby. It’s hard to buy into the story and the comedy is pretty bland given the premise. The ending is also rather abrupt, just dropping the subplot about them trying to woo a woman (she’s even in the same scene at the end but she suddenly just disappears and we never see her reaction to everything).
Return of the Super-Sleuth?!
Geri Barnum is back and she wants Keaton to investigate a case. Her husband saw a neighbor across the way murdered, but her body disappeared and with him being a bit tipsy, no one believes him. Like “An Incident Among Women” from last volume, this is easily one of the better stories in the collection. Having Barnum back is great, since she is a fun character that plays off of Keaton very well and helps contribute to the story’s resolution. What also helps is the story, which is paced very well and has a mystery that’s legitimately engaging. It’s a wonderfully told tale from start to finish and even if we never see Barnum again, it was just nice to have her back for one last tale.
Made in Japan
In a three-parter, a Japanese man named Nakamura is an assassin who has been hired to take on a big job, killing Keaton to prevent some secrets from getting out. As a whole, “Made in a Japan” is definitely one of the better stories in the collection. Spread across three chapters, the story has more time for development and pacing, building up the character of Nakamura rather well and even getting to have a twist or two that feels effective. The “Made in Japan” theme feels like it has a point, having affected both Nakamura and his past. The only negative thing I find is that the ending is a bit too abrupt despite having more time to develop the story, which is disappointing in a way.
Love from the Otherworld
Keaton unwittingly gets hired to investigate a haunting at the mansion belonging to the owner of a big publishing company. He believes that the ghost of a woman that his father had graverobbed is the culprit. The story here isn’t too bad overall, with a few interesting twists and turns to keep you guessing. It does fall apart a bit at the end due to a rushed conclusion that’s mostly an exposition dump. What is revealed is in theory good, but it doesn’t have much power or impact due to how out of nowhere it felt like came from.
The Lost Genius Director
A huge, epic blockbuster film comes to a screeching halt when the director ends up committing suicide. Well, that’s what it seems like to Keaton at first. Very simple and straightforward, “The Lost Genius Director” is probably one of the better told stories in this collection. It flows very nicely, the characters are developed enough, and nothing feels rushed in the narrative, reaching a satisfying conclusion. The weakest point is that the victim is built up as this great, visionary director and actually decent guy, but it’s mostly told to us instead of shown to us. As such, some of the words spoken about him feel a little hollow.
Lost Beyond the Wall
Keaton picks up a hitchhiker in Germany and offers him a ride to town a couple of miles away. The man is someone who escaped a few years before the fall of the Berlin Wall and is trying to find out where his wife and daughter had disappeared to after he escaped. This is easily the most touching and heartfelt story in the collection. It’s a story about a man who is not perfect or even great, trying to make up for the sins he’s committed and the guilt that consumes him, getting help from Keaton the entire way. The story almost seems to be heading for a melancholy ending and even given what happens, it’s still not clear this will truly be happy given what he has done. However, due to excellent pacing and characterization, I found myself really sucked into this story.
The Final Challenge
A friend of Keaton’s from college is looking for an old buddy of his. The friend is a boxer and is planning on retiring soon, so he wants his friend to photograph him in his final bout, but things are rather complicated between the two. The story, while decent, is a bit too quick for its own good. While I understand the motivation and the reason behind everyone’s decisions in the story, I don’t feel the friendship or closeness the characters had outside of them telling us about it. It’s not a bad story at all, but it’s not as interesting or engaging as the other tales since I don’t really feel the human element in this one.
Pact on Ben Tan Mountain and Judgement on the Mountain
In a two parter, a man who scales mountains both for fun and for a living finds himself in a horrifying situation similar to that of “Strangers on a Train.” Trying to encourage someone to stay alive, the mountaineer unintentionally gets a man to kill someone he hates and now that guy wants him to do the same. Or at least, that’s what it seems like. Of the two stories that spanned multiple chapters, this was probably the best. It’s a wild ride with tons of twists and turns. Once you learn something, there’s another layer to it and the story grows larger than you expected. It gets a bit convoluted for a bit, but it does come together rather well and I found myself really into what was going on. The characters could have used a bit more work, but it didn’t really detract too much away from the overall experience.
Master Keaton Vol. 11 is another solid collection of tales, though the quality is a bit lower than previous outings, with fewer hits and mostly unremarkable stories. The best of the collection goes to “Return of the Super-Sleuth?!” for a well told story and great characters, while the weakest is probably “Two Fathers” due to how rushed and unfunny it is. Either way, if you liked the previous books, there’s no reason to skip out on this one.