By Jason Urbanciz
Sometimes when you parody something, the end result is so good that it becomes what it’s making fun of. In that regard, Viz’s One-Punch Man serves as a perfect simultaneous send up/shining example of superhero comics. I should clarify that this is not a criticism; the execution is handled so well that it transforms what could easily be a one joke premise into something sublime.
Originally brought to life in a popular webcomic from pseudonymous creator ONE , a “remade” One-Punch Man from ONE and artist Yusuke Murata saw life two years ago in Young Jump Web Comics and was eventually serialized in English in the digital pages of Weekly Shonen Jump. Viz has finally collected the first eight chapters of the serial from Shonen Jump into a digital volume (available both at Viz and the Kindle store) plus a bonus story, and it is well worth the money.
The set-up of One-Punch Man is pretty simple; after training for years to be the ultimate fighter, Saitama has achieved that…and is now bored as hell. As the title says, he wins most of his fights with a single punch and now he’s basically going out of his skull because of that.
The first few stories come off as pretty formulaic: a new threat is introduced, be it a guy who looks like that one guy from Dragonball (the one with the antennae) or a dude who is given super-duper-steroids by his scientist brother and becomes a naked city-destroying giant, but Saitama intervenes and blows those dudes up with one punch and then gets pissed because what the hell is he gonna do with the rest of his day now?
Towards the end of the book we get into longer form storytelling, introducing Saitama ’s unwanted cyborg student and the possible villain for the series, the House of Evolution. Though I haven’t read a lot of manga, the latter bits definitely reminded me of Kamen Rider, with our hero facing a different animal-themed villain each fight and all of them stemming from the same evil organization. I’m sure these similarities are intentional, but like Warren Ellis’ Nextwave (which feels like OPM’s American cousin), One-Punch Man is so good at being a superhero comic that the parody feels secondary.
The art by Yusuke Murata is excellent the whole way through. Saitama’s design is incredibly basic (bald, white super-suit, cape) yet his face is incredibly expressive. It’s wonderful how much emotion he can convey with a single look. While the hero is very simple, the rest of the cast and the world is incredibly detailed, whether it’s his cyborg student’s intricate robot parts, sexy mosquito ladies, or the vast amounts of rubble caused by the wanton destruction each story.
I can really see why people have been talking about this book since it premiered. It’s funny and smart in all the right ways. It manages to skewer superhero comics, but does it with an obvious affection for them. I really loved this book and can’t wait for the next set of stories to be collected.
ONE and Murata’s One-Punch Man appears bi-monthly in Viz’s Weekly Shonen Jump digital manga anthology.