Alabaster is a radical reinterpretation of The Invisible Man by Osamu Tezuka. When a Black athlete is jilted by his girlfriend and wrongfully imprisoned, he vows to take revenge against a racist and unjust world. Aided by an invisibility ray-gun and mad science that turned his skin translucent the man becomes the phantom specter known as Alabaster.
In another author’s hands this may have been a simple revenge quest, but Tezuka is able to take the seeds of an idea and explore them to near-breaking point. Alabaster isn’t the only person affected by invisibility; a young girl named Ami, was born invisible and wears make up to be seen. As the plot develops, Alabaster acts as a would-be guardian for Ami but also a corruptive force that turns her slowly away from humanity.
As if Alabaster’s anti-heroic actions weren’t dark enough, Tezuka introduces the sadistic, yet beautiful, FBI agent Rock Holmes as an antagonist. Longtime Tezuka fans will recognize a striking similarity in personality and cruelty between Rock Holmes and Yuki from MW. Tezuka is known for reusing character types and has often described them as actors in his head filling different roles.
This manga was made during a dark and hopeless part of Tezuka’s life and even he felt that he may have gone too far. While the story is bleak, Alabaster has many striking horror images– my favorite being a perverse zoo of semi-transparent animals.
Alabaster has cutting social satire, complex characters, and avant-garde storytelling techniques. The artistic presentation and rich subject matter make this radical retelling of The Invisible Man essential reading for the thinking horror fan.