ONE & Murata’s One-Punch Man: Pure Cape Comics

September 26th, 2013 by | Tags: , , ,

One-Punch Man is an ONE & Yusuke Murata joint. It runs in Weekly Shonen Jump (preview pack here), an anthology of boys’ comics that’s currently serializing Tite Kubo’s Bleach, Eiichiro Oda’s One Piece, a colorized version of Akira Toriyama’s Dragon Ball Z, and several other series. The gist is simple and enjoyable: Saitama wanted to be a hero, so he trained. He trained so hard that he actually became capable of ending any fight in a single punch. He dreams of having a glorious, devastating battle, but it doesn’t happen. It can’t happen. He’s too good. He’s Slacker Superman, and he’s in a gag comic.

A big part of my enjoyment of OPM is that ONE & Murata clearly love the same things I do about superheroes and shonen comics, but have no patience for the nonsense that infests both types. So OPM feels very lean and easy-going, but explodes into incredibly enjoyable high action.

Chapter twenty-six came out this week and is the finest cape comic I’ve read in ages. I try to avoid hyperbole, and that sounds hyperbolic, but dig:

Mumen Rider is a Class C hero. His power is that he has a bicycle and moves like JUSTICE CRASH!, where he throws a bicycle at someone, or JUSTICE TACKLE!, when he tackles someone. He’s a normal dude with a heart of gold, but hearts of gold and bicycles only take you so far against a nigh-invincible Deep-Sea King. A wise man knows his limitations and acts accordingly.

The Deep-Sea King, he of the heart nipples and massive strength, has spent the past few chapters tearing through every hero in sight, including ones with names. He hammers Genos, Saitama’s cyborg sorta sidekick, and is ready to finish the job when a JUSTICE CRASH! grabs his attention. He manhandles Mumen Rider, Looney Tunes-style, by simply intercepting an attack and beating Mumen Rider against the ground repeatedly.

one-punch-man - 01

But Mumen Rider stands up again.

What makes a hero? Is it the powers? The tortured past? The borderline-authoritarian insistence that you know right from wrong better than anyone else? Or is it something else? For me, growing up, it was scenes like this, when someone looks at injustice, holds up a hand, and says “No,” no matter the risk that entails. It echoes through Frank Miller’s Sin City, the Michelinie/McFarlane Spider-Man, and even a little bit in Jim Lee-era X-Men. It’s all over Hiromu Arakawa’s Full Metal Alchemist. You can see it in real life heroes. A hero is someone who is willing to throw their life away to protect someone else, regardless of their level of skill or destiny. You get up out of your seat and on your feet and you tell them people “No.”

That near-suicidal courage is inspiring. It’s a reminder that we’re not alone, that we’re all in this together, and that one man can make a difference if he tries. It’s hope. Something works as it should in our fallen world. And so:

one-punch man - 02

When Mumen Rider showed up, these people were excited, but confused. They’re locked in a shelter to hide from Deep-Sea King’s attack, and they’ve seen him utterly dominate another, higher-ranked hero. They know that Mumen Rider has no chance. But a little bit of courage, a little bit of confidence, goes a long way. They believe because he believes.

Mumen Rider has no chance. Deep-Sea King clobbers him effortlessly. But in taking a stand, Mumen Rider did exactly what a hero should do. He held the line.

one-punch-man - 04

Saitama catches Mumen Rider before he falls. Saitama tells him “Good job. Nice fight,” and carefully lays him on the ground. Saitama understands and respect sacrifice. In a way, Mumen Rider is the hero Saitama wishes he could be. He wants that glory. So he treats Mumen Rider with the respect and tenderness that he has not just earned, but deserves.

There’s a few pages left after this sequence, but that panel of Saitama catching Mumen Rider? That’s the real cliffhanger. That’s what’s going to get you hype, because it’s a moment for you to reflect. You know that Saitama is invincible. You know that he only gets beaten in his dreams. You know that he’s a little dumb, but genuinely kind. You know that he’s a hero. You know that heroes win, especially in cape comics, and you know exactly how Saitama wins his fights.

Deep-Sea King has caused a massive amount of destruction, shown a callous disregard for life, and generally acted a fool because he can’t be stopped. He’s a bully.

Here comes Justice.

Similar Posts:

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to Reddit Post to StumbleUpon

5 comments to “ONE & Murata’s One-Punch Man: Pure Cape Comics”

  1. One-Punch Man is definitely the best ‘new’ comic of 2013. For all the reasons your article lists. When it began I sort of questioned how it could sustain its premises. But its managed to fine a really cool groove and always keeps me asking for more. This latest chapter was just absurdly good, I’m glad it got some press on this blog, and it (and the rest of the WSJ line-up) is getting regular love in the TWIP articles.

  2. I really hope WSJ is able to license these for a trade release in any format soon, if only for those amazing flipbook animation style chapters but even serialized One-Punch Man is incredibly satisfying. The last month or two especially, where Saitama’s arrival kept getting put off, you’d still feel that excitement over the action and the anticipation of the one punch oblivion without the aggravation of feeling like Murata and ONE are stalling for time or (in the case of something like Bleach)spending too long on the supporting cast or something. So yeah, the pacing is incredible and perfect.

    I was watching Murata’s U_Stream when he was working on this chapter, and I think the thing that shocked me most was Mumen Rider, who I thought died back in Chapter 3 or something. Whoops.
    But it was nice to see him used here as the symbol of heroism, maybe because he was such a punchline character earlier on? Hope he appears more often.

  3. Also: between the Deep-Sea King and Empowered’s King Tyrant Lizard a tiny crown is fast becoming one of my new favorite pieces of villainous wardrobe.

  4. […] in Manga) Leroy Douresseaux on vol. 68 of One Piece (The Comic Book Bin) David Brothers on One-Punch Man (4thletter!) TSOTE on vol. 28 of Q.E.D. (Three Steps Over Japan) Derek Bown on the September 16 […]

  5. Glad you posted these; I really wanted to send in that first Mumen Rider panel for TWiP, but I’m pretty sure it counts as a spread an is thus against the rules. It’s actually a pretty frustrating series from that perspective, as it’s full of awesome spreads and they often contain the best moments of a chapter. I want to be able to say: “Look at how great this is!” but keep finding myself with nothing but a handful of small panels in which not much is happening.

    @J. Tabon: Well, he’s a Kamen Rider parody, and Kamen Rider is fairly iconic in Japan. That may have something to do with it. Extreme perseverance in the face of impossible odds is very popular trope in shonen manga as well, perhaps even more so than in American superhero comics. It’s actually something Shonen Jump wants in all its series; the anthology’s motto is: “Friendship, effort, victory.”