I’m someone who loves conspiracies, especially when it involves secret organizations with mysterious, perhaps benevolent, perhaps self-serving, motives and one obscure, lethal, and stoic operative at the center of everything. When the world’s usual powerhouses behind governmental interests, the FBI, MI-5, the CIA (and other acronyms as well!) all find themselves hanging by a thread, about to go down in a hale of bullets or up in an explosion, there is one shadow organization, known as Ultimate Blue, that will arrive to restore balance. No one can ever know precisely when that will happen, or whether this restoration of balance will work in their favor or not. The rumors are at once precise and not enough information: everyone knows the organization exists, but no one knows who pulls the strings, and everyone knows there are nine agents of increasing ability, with number nine being the top of the super-agent heap.

I’m sure you can see where this is going. Musashi #9, as the agent is known, is stone cold, ruthless, cunning, and absolutely without fear. Every time he arrives, everyone knows the sh*t has just royally hit that fan and they’re lucky to have someone pull their butt out of the fire. Oh, and the real kicker? Though Musashi #9 first appears to be the ultimate emotionally distant bishonen hottie, she is, in fact, a 19-year-old girl. This series is a whole lot of fun for both the way it speculates on the life of such an elite (and lonely) agent and how it shows how her presence in people’s lives, no matter how fleeting, changes their outlook forever. As the story is told within the framework of Musashi’s assignments, the everyday mixes with piles of suspense and action and gives the reader an easy way into such an alien character. Musashi arrives and leaves with surprising suddenness, keeping her reputation alive and well.

In the first volume, the repeated chapters get a bit tiresome with the “…and, it’s a girl!” punchline, and the distance the story keeps from Musashi means that though she keeps her cool factor very much intact, in the end it’s also hard to care about her. In the second volume, however, we start to see tiny cracks in the veneer, mainly in how others care about Musashi and in discovering more about her past – her childhood was just as brutal as her teenhood, and that really makes the reader wonder what kind of person remains underneath all the bravado and skill. One of the first titles released via DC Comics foray in manga, CMX, it remains to be seen whether the series will move beyond the tired gender revelation to a true story arc, but so far, so fun.

Musashi #9
by Miyuki Takahashi
Volume 1, ISBN: 1401205402
Volume 2, ISBN: 9781401205416
DC Comics/CMX Manga, 2005

  • Robin B.

    | She/Her Teen Librarian, Public Library of Brookline

    Editor in Chief

    Robin E. Brenner is Teen Librarian at the Brookline Public Library in Massachusetts. She has chaired the American Library Association Great Graphic Novels for Teens Selection List Committee, the Margaret A. Edwards Award Committee, and served on the Michael L. Printz Award Committee. She is currently the President of the Graphic Novels and Comics Round Table for ALA. She was a judge for the 2007 Eisner awards, helped judge the Boston Globe Horn Book Awards in 2011, and contributes to the Good Comics for Kids blog at School Library Journal. She regularly gives lectures and workshops on graphic novels, manga, and anime at comics conventions including New York and San Diego Comic-Con and at the American Library Association’s conferences. Her guide, Understanding Manga and Anime (Libraries Unlimited, 2007), was nominated for a 2008 Eisner Award.

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