The seventh volume of One-Punch Man is perhaps one of the most important volumes in the entire series. Not just because of the big showdown with the alien invaders in which artist Yusuke Murata delivers some of the finest pages to grace any comic on the face of the planet. Rather it’s importance comes from the storylines that it subtly builds in this volume. It is a statement from creator/writer One, in which he says, “We’re not going anywhere, we have so much more to show you.” Part of this statement is due to the manga market in which the reliance on individual popularity in the weekly shonen magazines determine if a series lives or dies. At some point though the creators become established and in a way safe. You can usually spot this stage because it’s when the story suddenly expands. The strange thing about me is that when I hit this point in most Manga, it's the very point in which I stop liking the series because a poor storyteller reveals themselves at this point. When the fear of cancellation is gone, they suddenly inflate the world with supporting characters or too many sub-plots that original reason you had for liking the story is gone. That doesn’t always happen of course, but One makes it look easy. In fact, you may not even notice that he treads the storyline for not one, but three arcs while continuing an arc that he’s already been building throughout the series. Add on top of that two subplots that aren’t a distraction from the story and suddenly a lot is going on, but it doesn’t feel that way.
One-Punch Man’s strength has always been how naturally the story flows. For instance, the final fight between Saitama and the alien leader. It’s an epic battle, but not only does it not take up the entire volume like it easily could, but the story flows right into the fight. It checks in with the other characters for just the right amount of time before the transition and then brings you right back out at the end.
As I said, the volume could have very easily made this boss fight last the entire volume. I was half expecting it since it’s practically the norm for the genre, but One surprised me again. Granted part of it is the editor that decided what chapters to place, but really if One hadn’t paced the story the way he did it wouldn’t have mattered where they cut. As it stands, though, there’s enough time for smaller stories including one in which Saitama gets arrested. It starts an interesting thread for the series, even if the scene has a relatively quick resolution.
Going back to the art, is there anyone better in Manga right now than Yusuke Murata? Sure the latter half of the book eases up on the stunning details, but can you blame him after seeing the incredibly detailed set pieces and backgrounds of the first half of the comic? The man’s hand must hurt 24/7. Even having written what I’ve written, I must give proper credit for the latter half because it is still better than any other manga I’ve ever read. It’s just such an impressive work of visual storytelling that can be appreciated by anyone that enjoys comics in any country on the planet. That’s an incredibly rare feat, but that’s how damn good his artwork is.
If volume seven is the first time you read One-Punch Man, that’s okay. As I stated in the beginning, it’s likely to be one of the most significant volumes of the series and due to One’s talented writing on the comic, it manages to recap the entire world for you while you’re reading it. You can come away with a general understanding of the whole series just from this volume. I don’t know if you can say that about too many comics.
Sometimes when a franchise booms, it just hits the market at the right time. I could make this argument for a lot of popular franchises in the North American market. Other times, there’s just a collective appreciation of the material in which the more people experience it, the more people understand that they’re witnessing something special, but you’ll have to read it to decide for yourself.
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One-Punch Man vol. 7 Writer: One Artist: Yusuke Murata Publisher: Viz Media Price: $9.99 Format: TPB; Print/Digital