"Buddha, Volume One: Kapilavastu"
By Osama Tezuka (Vertical, 288 pages)
Comic books depicting religious stories have been a part of mainstream Eastern cultures for some time. The Mahabharata comic series has provided Indian kids with imagination-testing storylines and spiritual guidance for decades, and the story of the Buddha has been illustrated numerous times as well. But Osama Tezuka's eight-volume, hand-drawn history of the life of Siddhartha moves far beyond those pulpy, kid-friendly books. Tezuka -- a legendary figure in the manga scene -- has created an expressive and vibrant opus that tells a long and complex story in a beautiful and accessible manner. Crafted with curiously modern dialogue, each historical tale in Siddhartha's life is told like a chapter in a Robert Louis Stevenson book, full of action and magic. Tezuka simplifies -- but doesn't dumb down -- his subject material, allowing the story to be told at a natural pace. No, the Buddha isn't Superman. He's cooler.