The eighty-sixth comic: #449 Akira
I knew of Akira through the movie adaptation before the manga, probably like most, and coming at a comic from that angle is interesting. Having seen its post apocalyptic world animated prepared me for a number of the beats - mostly at the start and end of the work, which follow similar beats. They set up a destroyed Tokyo after a big explosion, the military research program that goes in with them, and at the end it tracks some parts. It looks like that end was written after the movie was made - an ending that feels relatively abrupt following the longer exploration of the shows, and it's hard not to feel Katsuhiro Otomo was done with the series at that point
What lies in between those two sections are arguably as interesting, if not more so. While we start in a dystopian Neo Tokyo run as a police state, with gangs roaming the street, we see the government driven out in favour of a regime led by Tetsuo as a supernatural force, with the titular Akira as a figurehead. He doesn't necessarily have as active a role in the story, but there's that doubt in the background on how much control he exerts indirectly when we find out he could communicate telepathically.
It takes its time, working out the many battles and the ebb and flow of power in the former capital, while at the same time Americans (or an international force) come in to take back the capital as well. Several factions are at play, and while we never get a scene of them coming together, there's a lot to keep track of there that switches who gets to do what. In the end, though, that fades away for the ultimate battle, but the lead up to it is tense and interesting enough. It's a great mix of places, shifting from a gritty gang dominated world to a Mad Max style world, resolving itself in a body horror disaster movie with art that seems to move in my mind as I see it, drawn that fluidly.
Slightly rushed ending aside - it feels like it drops a couple of threads in favour of an ending that reinforces the dystopian nature - it's an interesting journey to go on with several characters, seeing them grow and build in this world, without a great attempt to improve or fix it - it's to exist and make a good place for yourself while helping others. There's an independence in it that's fascinating, and a slight bleakness that it can't quite overcome.