Friday, April 19, 2013

Review: 21ST CENTURY BOYS Volume 2


WRITER: Naoki Urasawa with Takashi Nagasaki
ARTIST: Naoki Urasawa
LETTERS: Freeman Wong
ISBN: 978-1-4215-4327-7; paperback (March 2013); Rated “T+” for “Older Teen”
200pp, B&W, $12.99 U.S., $14.99 CAN, £8.99 UK

Naoki Urasawa’s epic 20th Century Boys comes to an end with the second volume of 21st Century Boys.

The war is over. The “Friend,” leader of the worldwide cult known as the “Friends,” is dead. But has peace really come to Tokyo, after the world was on the brink of destruction? Many mysteries concerning the Friend remain, such as the Friend’s true identity. Are any of his diabolical plans still in motion? The answers may be in the memories of Kenji Endo, the returning hero and the Friend’s sworn enemy. 20th Century Boys has concluded. Welcome to 21st Century Boys.

Naoki Urasawa’s 21st Century Boys, Vol. 2 (entitled 20th Century Boy) is the final volume of the series. It opens in the Friends’ virtual reality game. Working with United Nations Forces, Kenji Endo entered the game, which is mostly a simulation of Kenji and his friends’ childhood neighborhood. Kenji’s goal is to learn the secrets behind the Friend’s final plot – an anti-proton bomb that can apparently destroy the world.

Meanwhile, Kanna (Kenji’s niece), Yukiji, Chono, and Maruo race to help Kendo. Yukiji, the woman Kendo has loved since they were children, and Kanna, however, are about to endanger themselves in their attempt to help Kenji. Can he save them and the world before it’s too late? And why does he keep going back into the Friends’ virtual reality game? The answers are in Kenji’s memories.

Whodunit? What is the face behind the mask? Who is pulling the strings? After reading two other fantastic Naoki Urasawa manga (Monster, Pluto), I get it, or I think I do. The fun in reading Urasawa and the greatness of his work are found in the journey. It’s the threat, the conflict, the desires and goals, the plot, the subplots, the cast of thousands, the action, the mystery, the surprises, the stunning revelations, the cameos, and the narrative. The bad guy is lost in all of that, at least after awhile.

Naoki Urasawa’s manga are just as fantastically conceived and executed as the work produced by the top names in comic books from American publishers. Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, Frank Miller, and Grant Morrison: Urasawa’s manga are just as good (if not better, hmm?) than these creators’ most famous works. The last volume has been published, but Naoki Urasawa’s 20th Century Boys and 2lst Century Boys will be fresh to new readers looking for great comic books. People who have already read the books may return to the Boys and find things they missed.

As we close out this great series, I must say again that comic book readers who want great comics want 20th Century Boys and 21st Century Boys.


Reviewed by Leroy Douresseaux

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