This month's manga mini-reviews are one volume short, but I thought I should go ahead and write them since this is a special all Monster edition! Since I was so close to the end, I decided to finish up the final four parts of Naoki Urasawa's manga masterpiece, and now that I've read all 18 volumes over the past two years, I can easily say this is the best non-fantasy (meaning no science fiction, magic, or anything supernatural) series I've read so far. Because of the incredible suspense/mystery storytelling, the wonderful cinematography of the artwork, and the fantastic attention to character development and backstories, I'd recommend Monster to anyone, whether you're a manga fan or not.
Monster Vol 15 really gets into Eva's (Tenma's ex-wife) story, while exploring Nina's (Johan's sister) memories at the same time. At this point in the story, I fell for a false clue and suspected something about the twins that I can't tell you (but of course, I was wrong!).
Monster Vol 16 leads up to a pivotal moment when Nina finally faces her brother Johan, then ends with a huge cliffhanger that made me fire up Safari to buy the next few volumes immediately! There's also some fascinating detective work to link a series of unrelated murders to Johan's past, as well as some rare flashbacks of the mysterious experiment.
Monster Vol 17 is much more fast-paced paced than before and starts to bring back important characters from previous volumes (such as Inspector Lunge and Grimmer) to prepare for the finale. The story was pretty intense for me at this point, but there was no way I could stop now.
Monster Vol 18 is a really thick volume, which ends the series with lots of moments that readers have been waiting for - Tenma meets Lunge, Lunge meets Grimmer, and the final confrontation with Johan himself. There's a nice epilogue to show how the lives of most characters turned out, and then a somewhat ambiguous ending, but Monster is far too amazing to let a little frustration spoil it all!