Buddha: Vol. 1, Kapilavastu by Osamu Tezuka

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A familiar saga—the life and times of the Illumined One—becomes a rip-roaring tale of kings and armies, downtrodden subjects, violent clashes, and supernatural feats in this first installment of an epic eight-volume graphic novel series by Osamu Tezuka, the late "godfather" of Japanese manga. The art is by turns dazzlingly beautiful and comic-book outlandish; the writing (in a crisp, uncredited translation) is at once distinguished and hip. Originally published in Japan in 1987, the series is being published in English in installments: The first two volumes were released in late 2003; the remaining ones are due out this year. Tezuka's Buddha is a striking and memorable confluence of ancient wisdom and contemporary popular art.