Monster 14 by Naoki Urasawa: A

From the back cover:
Tenma’s long quest for justice, Johan and Nina’s search for identity—all roads converge on the mysterious “Red Rose Mansion.” Is Nina prepared to confront the dark memories this cursed house will awaken in her subconscious? If Tenma gets there in time, will he find a clue that will help him save the life of his ex-fiancée Eva? Or will Johan, as always, remain several steps ahead of everyone?

These books really are quick reads. I think it’s because there’s nothing extranneous in the panels. The art is fabulous, to be sure, but there’s nothing like shrinky-dink text or frenzied panel layouts that might detract from the story. Back to a list this time!

Awesome Things:
1. Someone—it isn’t clear who—recalls some events from Nina and Johan’s childhood, including when they were initially found near the Czech border, a photo op with the Lieberts after they made it to West Germany, and the night Johan asked Nina to shoot him. It’s good to finally get some detail on this, and I love how it’s internally consistent with what has been previously established.

2. We see a few more of the stories by the picture book author, as creepy as the first.

3. I actually kind of love the last chapter, told from the point of view of a thug assigned to guard Eva. He hates taking jobs involving women, and she drives him crazy, but he eventually feels the urge to protect her and ends up getting shot. I’m not a fan of hers, but his reaction to her is great.

Confusing Things:
1. Some guy arrives at the Liebert’s house before Nina finds them all shot. Who was that?

2. When Nina and Johan are near the border, she calls him Johan and asks him to say her name. He replies that they have no names. Later, General Wolf says, “They didn’t have names when I named him Johan.” So, is Johan really his name or what?

A Note:
Sometimes, with this series, one just has to give up asking, “Now, how did he know that, again?”

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