Enter Urasawa Naoki, author of many classic manga, and one of my favorite mangaka. Now what happens when you cross God of Manga Tezuka Osamu, and Urasawa Naoki? You get the gritty, realistic portrayel of Tetsuwan Atomu's (Astro Boy) World's Strongest Robot Arc, boldly reinvisioned as the manga Pluto.
I will admit, I know barely anything about Astro Boy but when applying it to Pluto, you don't really need anything more than the most common background knowledge. It's the future. There are robots everywhere. That is the world of Pluto.
There is a force after the world's 7 strongest robots, and it has spun into a serial murder case, starting with the death of a beloved swiss robot known as Montblanc. The news spreads across the world and into the data banks of German Europol Robot Gesicht, who is the main character of this story. Living hapilly in Dusseldorf with his robotic wife, Helena, Gesicht is saddened by the death of Montblanc, and decides to take his wife on a vacation. But before that can happen, a human murder occurs and Gesicht notices a similarity.. both Montblanc and the human's remains have been set up to look like their corpses have horns. This bothers Gesicht and leads him down the road of investigation. But as in traditional Urasawa works, every single character is as compelling as the lead, infact as I was reading Pluto I felt that many of the side characters could be taken out of Pluto and given their own story, stories I would definatly read, so don't worry about being bored with Gesicht's own story with all the other remarkable characters.
Montblanc, Gesicht, Brando, North Mk II, Atom, Heracles, Epsilon, the world's seven strongest robots are being hunted down and Gesicht has to find the killer before none of their kind are left. The culprit is a gigantic creature that is able to control the elements, create life-and destroy it. Able to summon tornadoes from nothing, all these traits leave one to believe this creature is truly indestructable. At times I had marveled at the sheer brilliance and terror than was Pluto, each panel where the 'monster' appeared had breathtaking art that truly proves Urasawa is a cut above other Mangaka in terms of pure skill, and at times the giant robot provided what I thought 20th Century Boys lacked with its giant robot presentation. As much as I love the art, I noticed a slight trend in Urasawa's illustrations.. some characters are quite similar to others.. anyone notice Epsilon's similarity to Johann, the antagonist of Urasawa's previous hit, Monster? Even if a small fraction of his characters look similar, he still does an amazing job of creating new designs and reimagining old ones.
To summarize, Pluto is a deep, involving mystery from the minds of Tezuka Osamu and Urasawa Naoki, a match made in heaven for this realistic spin on one of manga's humble beginings. I was not disapointed in the least, and neither will you be when you flip to the last page of this wonderful story.