One-Punch Man, vols. 1-2

Wednesday, November 11, 2015  By  Garrett Gottschalk     No comments

One-Punch ManSaitama was having a rough life: lingering unemployment, lack of direction, and an omnipresent malaise that threatened to overwhelm him, all adding up to one very unsatisfied individual. Desperately searching for a purpose, Saitama made the fateful decision to become a superhero (because hey, that sounded fun). After three years of intense physical training, Saitama has gained the strength of ability and will to become a hero. Eager to face a worthy challenge, Saitama confronts his first opponent, defeating him with one punch. His next opponent falls in one blow, and the next, and the next…

What could be happening? Surely there is a foe who can challenge Saitama in honorable combat. Surely there is a villain of such magnitude and ferocity as to make Saitama quake in his boots. Surely there is someone or something that can give him pause, forcing him to gird himself for the fight of his life.

Nope! One punch is all it takes, and that makes Saitama very, very bored.

Written by ONE and drawn by Yusuke Murata, One-Punch Man is, in a word, smashing. This satire is a delightfully and perfectly executed deconstruction of the grossly overpowered superhero and all the tropes that tag along for the ride. Saitama comes across as both protagonist and his own antagonist, for his inability to pick a good fight is what ultimately forms the basis of conflict in One-Punch Man, to very hilarious effect. The satire doesn’t end with Saitama, either: cities are summarily crushed while a young girl wearing a t-shirt labeled “school child” wails in dejection. The villains grandstand with aplomb while incredulous that their enemy—a bald, blasé, average-looking, and mopey Saitama, still clad in boots and cape—stands before them, utterly indifferent to their obvious, blood-soaked might.

In the first story arc, which concludes in the second volume, Saitama must contend with a shadowy organization known as the House of Evolution. Led by a rather mad scientist, the House of Evolution is in the business of breeding animal-themed mutant warriors, in an effort to accomplish something or other. Along the way, Saitama runs into a very sympathetic cyborg named Genos, who also has dreams of becoming a hero. Dumbfounded by Saitama’s prodigious power and total nonchalance, Genos falls in with his new idol, pleading Saitama to teach him the means by which he developed his power.

The clincher in this series is the artwork by Yusuke Murata, which brings together the mélange of action and humor in a very traditional and satisfying style. While the artist could have chosen to veer into lampoon, Murata instead uses a classic look replete with speed-lined action and intense, three-paneled splashes. Saitama’s foes look like they could have come straight from the pages of a big-box superhero comic or Dragonball Z, making it all the more ridiculous when Saitama obliterates them with a single blow.

One-Punch Man is worth it on so many levels. Taking the piss out of the noble champion and serving an uproarious take on the genre, One-Punch Man devastatingly raises the stakes… until one punch lays everything back down.

One-Punch Man, Volumes 1 & 2
by ONE
Art by Yusuke Murata
Vol. 1 ISBN: 9781421585642
Vol. 2 ISBN: 9781421585659
Viz Media, 2015
Publisher Age Rating: Teen

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