One-Punch Man, vols. 3-4

Tuesday, June 14, 2016  By  Garrett Gottschalk     No comments

One-Punch-Man-V3After several notable victories against an evil organization, in addition to his regular defense of City Z against monstrous threats, Saitama is positive that he will finally start to receive the recognition he deserves. Instead, he has only earned a warning that unlicensed heroic activities will be met with stern punishments, and if Saitama wants to be taken seriously in the hero business, he must register with the Hero Association and pass a series of tests. There’s only one problem: Saitama has never tested well.

One-Punch Man continues the sensational, satirical slugfest in volumes 3 and 4, joyfully capturing the humdrum of the most powerful individual on the planet (if not the whole universe). In order to be a proper and legal hero, Saitama must pass a written and physical exam administered by the Hero Association. While Saitama flawlessly and hilariously demolishes the physical exam, his work on the written test barely earns him a passing grade: C-rank hero! Not only does Saitama have to hustle to improve his status in the Hero Association, but he also must successfully execute at least one heroic act a week or he will be weeded out altogether. Worse yet, now that Saitama is the new kid on the block, other heroes with nefarious intentions are clamoring to put him through the wringer and make his life miserable. Even old rivals like Speed-o’-Sound Sonic still haven’t let their defeats at Saitama’s fist sway them from retesting their mettle against our beleaguered hero. Despite the constant harassment from his so-called peers, Genos, Saitama’s cyborg student and roommate, steadfastly remains true to his adopted master, much to Saitama’s consternation. In addition to all of these boorish and tiresome distractions from the path of true heroism, Saitama has caught the attention of a mysterious hero at the top of the Association’s hierarchy: a warrior known only as Bang. Bang was fully aware of Saitama’s scores during his physical exam, and now ponders the meaning of the rise of Saitama, for “…a god walks among us.”

Our bald and caped hero exhibits an entrenched and all-consuming case of impostor syndrome, wherein a large share of the series’ humor lies. Saitama is literally the most destructive force on the planet, yet jumps when he catches an ad for a sale at the grocery store. These contrasts are worked over and over again with what can almost be described as a masochistic desire to see just how low Saitama’s self-esteem can get. Author ONE really ratchets up the emotional screws in these volumes, showing us more aspects of Saitama’s inner life while giving tantalizing hints at the larger arc of the series’ plot. Yusuke Murata continues to deliver full-bore on the artwork, mashing up action and comedy with near effortless aplomb.

This series is really, really worth it. With a skillful balance of fisticuffs and jokes, One-Punch Man delivers a bold, uproarious commentary on the superhero genre while consistently maintaining a heart that beats with a love for all of the inspiration that came before it. This series can’t be recommended enough for fans of superhero comics, Dragonball Z, and all of the tropes celebrated by capes, fists, and doing the right thing.

One-Punch Man, vols. 3-4
by ONE
Art by Yusuke Murata
Vol. 3 ISBN: 9781421564616
Vol. 4 ISBN: 9781421569208
Viz Media, 2015

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