Story and Art by Hiromu Arakawa
Published in the U.S. by Viz
Slugline: Two brothers, marked by their experimentation into the darkest uses of alchemy, now work for the government and try to reverse their condition.
For people that watch anime, Fullmetal Alchemist it is one of those ready-born hits, taking the anime world by storm, mowing down its victims -- I mean gathering fans before it was even officially released. The gray market makes sure that people know when the good stuff is coming.
And the manga it is based on is good. Not great, but the magic system is explained briefly, and then never really mentioned again but its rules stay in effect. That sort of consistency shows care. The main characters, Edward and Alphonse, have easily recognizable but not shallow characterizations.
Edward and Alphonse tried to bring their mother back to life and failed. Edward lost part of his leg, and Alphonse would have died bodiless if Edward hadn't sacrificed his arm to contain Alphonse's spirit in a suit of armor. Now, years later, Edward has been drafted into government service as an alchemist, but all he is really interested is finding a way to restore Alphonse's body.
As typical for fantasy manga, the country the story is set in is a mixture of Europe in the mid- to late-industrial age with alchemical magic thrown in. In addition, the country seems to be under a military dictatorship/a fascist state with rebellions and corruption festering on the body politic. Edward in particular is unconcerned about the world around him, but that sort of indifference never lasts. A pretty face will probably change that.
But isn't that always the how it goes, Miranda?