Naoki Urasawa’s 20th Century Boys Vols. 4 & 5
Naoki Urasawa, writer/artist
200 pages, Vol. 4
216 pages, Vol. 5
There are two major developments in these installments of Urasawa’s cult-conspiracy thriller. The first is the introduction as a secondary protagonist of Wolverine. The gruff longhaired badass who plays by his own rules but has a heart of gold and so on–named Shogun, in case you didn’t pick up on his awesomeness–was technically introduced in Vol. 3, but here we find out who he really is, get an origin story involving a wise old sensei, and connect him to the main thread of action. The second major development, which is interesting because it upends the first, is a big honking shift of the whole territory of the story that came waaaaaay quicker than expected. I won’t spoil it beyond the spoilage that is announcing its existence, but it’s what longtime watchers of Lost might call a “game-changer.” And if you opt to look at Shogun as the Sawyer figure instead of the Wolverine figure, that may be even more helpful in terms of establishing just how expertly Urasawa plays with genre tropes, insofar as these same tropes would later be key to the greatest work of American pop/pulp fiction this decade. 20th Century Boys has a lot in common with Lost, a neutral observation that doubles as an endorsement.
PS for readers of the series: The first lyrics in T. Rex’s “20th Century Boys” are “Friends say it’s fine, friends say it’s good.” Ha!