A solid one-shot manga adaptation of the American superhero franchise, set in the traditional DC universe rather than reinventing the character for Japanese audiences (as in Tensei shitara slime datta ken). Batman, the dark hero of Gotham City, finds himself encountering copycat versions of all his old enemies. The trail leads to a mysterious drug, Fanatic, which gives people the power to become whoever they want. This clever if self-congratulatory take on superhero fandom gives Asamiya the opportunity to draw most of the classic Batman villains, including Two-Face, the Riddler, Penguin, and the Joker. As usual in an Asamiya comic, his character designs are stiffly stylized and unrealistic, but the backgrounds are slick and the composition is at times iconic. Talky fights with villains, shadowy cityscapes, tough guys with square jaws and big noses: Asamiya’s draftsmanship isn’t up to the best of American superhero comics, but he’s a good match for the material. The English rewrite by comic writer Max Allan Collins, much more long-winded than the original Japanese dialogue, sounds appropriately melodramatic bordering on cheesy (“How ironic, don’t you think? That so dark a figure defends the light?”).
An intense, furiously inventive cyberpunk adventure set in a grubby future world of cynical cyborgs and street trash. The amnesiac Alita, rescued from a garbage pile by one of the Scrapyard’s rare Good Samaritans, begins an odyssey of self-discovery by way of bounty hunting, blood sports, and high-tech wetwork, interwoven with philosophical explorations of the relationship between brain and body and artistic depictions of what happens when they get splattered all over a motorball track. Kishiro’s illustration and storytelling chops improve as the story progresses, but from the very start Alita is packed full of nervy sci-fi concepts and heartrending drama, and the plot rockets along at a most un-manga-like pace—our heroine goes through more than a decade of adventures, and at least half a dozen bodies, in the span of these nine volumes. The final hundred pages provide an abrupt conclusion that Kishiro subsequently discarded in favor of the sequel series God and devil world, and this original ending was omitted entirely from the large-format reprint series released in Japan between 1998 and 2000. (MS)