Pluto (Volume 1)
Naoki Urasawa & Osamu Tezuka
This was one of my most anticipated comics of the year. I really enjoyed Naoki Urasawa's Monster, and having heard that Pluto was even better, I couldn't wait for this to come out. I was kind of impatient for Monster to end, to be honest, and I'm glad that Viz was so prompt in releasing Urasawa's highly-regarded work. And it was absolutely worth the wait.
Pluto is based on the Astro Boy story "The Greatest Robot On Earth," by legendary manga creator Osamu Tezuka. Astro Boy is arguably Tezuka's most beloved creation and I rather liked what I read of the series, which wasn't too much to be honest, and I never did read this particular story. I don't think that that hindered my enjoyment of the story at all however. I get Astro Boy and what makes Urasawa's reimagining of the character and his universe so cool. Urasawa's interpretation of Tezuka's world is much more realistically told, drawn out to let the characters breathe and develop, and is drawn beautifully. Astro Boy himself, who is portrayed by Tezuka as cylindrical with a shiny, recognizable head of hair, has Astro Boy or "Atom" look like an ordinary boy, true to the rest of the story (and just as the robot police detective most of the story is told through is portrayed). And Naoki really gets what makes this story in particular so cool, drawing out the suspense of the tale in true Urasawa style to highlight little items that are just a small piece of the larger mystery, that of who is destroying the seven great robots of the world (of which Atom and the police detective Gesicht are included). A blurred figure can be seen on surveillance footage leaping between two buildings. The heads of the destroyed robots are found with antlers or horns ceremoniously placed with them. It's all very eerie, especially told through Urasawa's realistic style.
Also wonderful is how Urasawa plays with the readers of Pluto, particularly fans of the original Astro Boy story. He plays with our expectations of what the robots in the story will look like, like with Gesicht, and really holds out on the audience with the first appearance of Astro Boy himself in the book (who finally shows up in the perfect final scene). You can really tell that Urasawa enjoyed the hell out of writing this comic and I enjoyed it right along with him, from his attention of details to his characters and the themes in his engaging, fully-realized world. Take note, because this is one of the greats.