Sporadic Sequential
Monday, December 01, 2008
The Spy Who Had A Cameo Appearance In His Own Series

Today's read: Golgo 13 Volume 05: Wiseguy.

I haven't had a chance to see the new James Bond movie yet, so this library pick was supposed to satisfy my craving for super-secret spy shenanigans.

Does it deliver? Partially. The book is split into two stories. In the first, Golgo 13 barely appears, only showing up at the very end to accept a contract on a crooked politician. The rest of the story is devoted to power struggles within various factions of the mob. (The whole thing reads like creator Takao Saito just finished watching the Godfather and wanted to write a story about the mafia, sticking Togo in at the last minute so it could be published as part of the Golgo 13 series.) I'm not a big fan of mob stories and the glamorization of the mafia, so I was already inclined not to like this. But the lack of spy intrigue and the ludicrous belt buckle weapon at the end really sealed the deal.

The second story, set in Europe around the time of the fall of Berlin Wall, was a more satisfying spy story, as it involved political scheming, betrayal, and revenge. Plus, who doesn't love seeing political leaders playing feverish war games on the high seas?

Other comments: The art took some getting used to, as it's a little light and cartoony for a serious spy series. In fact the art reminds me of something that would have appeared in Mad or Cracked magazine. Is there an artist from one of those magazines who had a style similar to this?

It was a bit strange coming into this series at the fifth volume, but it sounds like I wouldn't gain much background by starting from volume one. According to Wikipedia, Golgo 13 is such a long-running series (148 volumes and counting in Japan) that Viz decided to publish a thirteen-volume selection of his "greatest hits" rather than try to publish the full series in chronological order. I suppose if all the stories are just one-off assignments like this it doesn't matter much what order they're read in, but the feature at the end detailing Golgo's most memorable tortures does make the point that an incremental appreciation can be gained by reading Golgo's exploits in sequence.

Speaking of the bonuses at the back of the book, they're probably the best part of the whole volume. In addition to the catalogue of times Golgo was tortured, there's also a short essay by martial artist Horibe Masashi recommending a future interrogation method that he's confident would break Golgo: bash him in the balls. Seriously! There's an entire page that goes into great detail why Golgo's opponents should go to work on his testicles. Best line:
I personally would like to see a scene where Golgo 13 gets attacked in the testicles, and squirms in anguish, or is attacked but is shown to have some sort of protection against it, allowing him to get through the biggest pinch of his life.
Best fan letter ever! (I wonder if the editors of Batman have ever gotten a letter like this. Has Batman ever been tortured by getting kicked in the nuts repeatedly?)

Besides, if Bond can put up with it, I'm betting Golgo could shake off some nutcracking.

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