"Monster" by Naoki Urasawa

In Naoki Urasawa’s Monster, Volume 1, an ice-cold killer is on the loose, and brilliant Dr. Kenzo Tenma is the only one who can stop him! Conspiracies, serial murders, and a scathing indictment of hospital politics are all masterfully woven together in this compelling manga thriller.

Likes: Art is clean and characters are distinctive. The “camera” angles are almost cinematic… way more dynamic than a soap opera. I also like the oblique nod to Astro Boy creator Osamu Tezuka by calling the young surgeon Dr. Tenma, just like the name of Astro’s creator/father. I also appreciated the appendix explaining page-by-page the Japanese sound-effect.

Dislikes: Written in 1995, the story feels too much like a cross between “Silence of the Lambs,” (1991) and “General Hospital.” Maybe the characters evolve, but in the first volume the lead character of Dr. Tenma is too naïve to be believable, and the supporting cast of doctors are too one-dimensional. If I’m going to immerse myself in an epic manga, (18 volumes!) I’d rather invest in the quirky and unpredictable 20th Century Boys, or Urusawa’s homage to Astro Boy Pluto: urasawa x tezuka.

If you like soap operas, serial killer stories, or hospital dramas you’ll get hooked on this. Otherwise, head for the 20th Century.