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Book Review < Back

Phoenix: A Tale of the Future (vol. 2)

Credits: Written and Illustrated by Osamu Tezuka
Publisher: Viz

Commentary

PHOENIX was the series that Osamu Tezuka called his "life work". A multi-volume serial spanning literally thousands of pages, he'd completed twelve books at the time of his death. The story, had it been completed in its entirety, began at the dawn of man and ended at man's twilight, its main characters appearing and reappearing across the eons in reincarnated forms. Each book could stand alone, and yet could be seen as a part of a much larger whole when they were all read together (Charmingly, in his 1969 introduction to the first volume of PHOENIX, Tezuka implored his critics and readers "Please go back and read through the whole series again. Otherwise, it will be difficult for me to respond to criticism."). Tezuka worked from the very beginning of mankind, to its very end, producing his life work from the far extremes of his timeline moving ever inward towards the present day (this book, the second completed, is in fact the final book in the PHOENIX timeline).

As fascinating as all that information is, none of it is needed to read and enjoy PHOENIX: A TALE OF THE FUTURE. Mankind, having ravaged the earth, has worked its way into subterranean megalopolises run by Big Brother-esque supercomputers. When a pilot is ordered to kill his shape-shifting alien wife, the couple flees the city, eventually taking shelter with a mad old scientist attempting to recreate life. Their absence has set off a chain of events that will lead to nuclear annihilation...

I know it sounds like I've blown the big plot points, but believe it or not the nuclear annihilation bit is barely the HALFWAY POINT of the story.

PHOENIX is a fearsome work of imagination. Told in a similar style to Tezuka's masterpiece ADOLF, PHOENIX deals with big, strange issues of great weight and moral implication, all while drawn in a strangely innocent cartoon style. Goofy, epic, surreal, manic, poetic, and bizarre in all equal measure, PHOENIX is quite unlike anything I've ever read.

-- Matt Fraction

 
Matt Fraction splits his time between motion graphics and design house MK12, writing comics, and reading comics. He is the author of the graphic novels The Annotated Mantooth and Last of the Independents, both available from AiT/Planet Lar. He can be found on the web at mattfraction.com. His wife is hot.

 


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