Part of a twelve-volume life's work by Japan's godfather of manga, "Phoenix: Karma" stands out as one of the few comix to go beyond supreme artistry into the sublime. Set in 8th century Japan, the story interweaves the lives of Gao, a disfigured bandit who discovers the lessons of Buddhism, with Akanemaru, a talented sculptor sent on a quest to carve the likeness of the titular bird. First published in Japan in 1970, "Phoenix: Karma" displays Tezuka (1928-1989) at the height of his powers, creating some of the most dynamic yet thoughtful cartoons ever drawn, mixing humor, pathos and philosophy. Yet even while Tezuka explores the meaning of life, he never gets so far into the clouds that he forgets to throw in the earth-bound humor of an occasional fart joke. A pioneer in the comix form, Tezuka's simple cartoonish characters inhabit highly detailed locations that suggest classical Japanese prints. "Phoenix: Karma" combines the excitement, plotting, and characterization of the best novels with the philosophy of the best spiritual essays and the beauty of the graphical arts into a singular masterpiece of world fiction.