Superheroism is a dangerous game. More often than not, these (optionally) caped crusaders stand toe to toe with titanic terrors that threaten the very safety of humanity or, to a slightly lesser extent, the stability of society and must stand their ground for the benefit of all. Of course this is nothing new and these exploits of championhood have bolstered stories and legends throughout the ages. What doesn’t often make the tale however is the innate uncertainty that dwells within certain heroes, nor does the selfishness and danger that comes with making oneself an icon. However, as we spiral ever further into the investigation of the flawed individual, we come to find that even those who stand out as the best are sometimes born from intentions which are far from the same. Yet still we must question the benefit of such and endeavour, as peering beneath the mask defeats its purpose and throws one of the world’s most tries and true tropes into chaos.
As down time is an almost alien concept within Cities A through Z, we rather rapidly join the ever eager Genos on a near-literal Earth shattering event. With a meteor blazing a trail through the vacuum of space, time is of the essence, a fact which is felt through the overall pacing of the chapter. Within a few pages we witness Genos receive his summons, meet another S-Class hero, races to the centre of future catastrophe, meets another S-Class hero, becomes disillusioned by said hero, tries, fails then finally becomes even more amazed by his self proclaimed Master/Teacher. Now, while this frenetic pace is nothing new for One-Punch Man, it doesn’t particularly work with an inanimate foe. Without the ridiculous back and forth between hero and villain, a noticeable sense of charm is lost. This is compounded by the overall speed of escalation, as there is very little build-up to the meteor, with it shattering almost as fast as it appears. That being said, it is still interesting to see Genos lead the charge once more, reminding us all that he is a terrifyingly powerful force all his own. It does however also showcase yet again the unbelievable power gap between Saitama and every other hero in the series and how, despite the apparent impossibility of his strength, he is the only one actually capable of defeating the enemies that so frequently appear. Kind of makes you wonder how Saitama finds the time to be bored, or how the world has managed to survive this long.
Despite the excitement an imminent meteor strike imbues in a story, the aftermath is by far the most interesting part of this volume. Having bore through the space born threat with (unsurprisingly) a single punch, Saitama neglected to consider damage control, resulting in countless pieces of rock to rain down upon City Z. Despite the casualty count remaining zero, the populace of said town possess no love for the hero who saved them, rather despising him for causing the destruction of their property. Thus, despite his (maybe) best efforts, the only capable hero within at least twenty six cities is ostracised. This is most clearly demonstrated by the enragingly petty Tank Top Siblings. Seeing an opportunity to better their own standing within the hero ranks, these shoulder bearing brothers decide to forge an angry mob and aim it directly at Saitama. Whilst immediately infuriating, this situation provides Saitama with a strange platform to voice his even stranger beliefs. He saved the town from annihilation, that much is inexorably true, yet he did it not for glory or for the ideals of heroism, but rather for the simplistic and selfish fact that it was what he wanted to do. Far from the normal tagline of a superhero, there is an oddly clean vibe presented in this reasoning. Whereas most heroes thus far have avoided any fight that would place them within harm’s way, Saitama could not care less about danger, let alone the opinions of the other heroes. Thus we find ourselves with a truly unique champion, one who, in addition to the previously mentioned necessitous power, possesses a character that allows him to save the day time and time again.
Throwing out a final positive comment, One-Punch Man never ceases to deliver when it comes to visuals. Whatever ridiculous situation or frighteningly bizarre villain graces the page, the art style depicts speed, expression and detail…really well. Just take any synonyms you know for awesome and apply them here. Simple as that.
This was an interesting volume to say the least. Despite the impressive display of firepower, courtesy of Genos and Metal Knight, early on, it is becoming increasingly difficult to expect anyone other than Saitama to succeed in besting a villain. Even Stinger, a powerful hero who debuts towards the end of the volume, can only manage to defeat henchman. Bang shows promise, as both an hero and ally to Genos, though his disbelief at Saitama’s strength only supports my previous statement. Then there’s Puri Puri Prisoner who…well…the less said there the better I think. Thus, like many series before it, we find ourselves with a cast of monsters who dwell within the shadow of one who could probably beat God in a fist fight. It makes you wonder just how incalculably intense this series would get if Saitama actually did find an opponent who could make him go all out, I honestly don’t know if the planet could take it…but I’d damn well like to see it anyway.
Only a Madman would want to live in the world of One-Punch Man, but those who want to read about it are mentally sound…maybe