For my money, Yusuke Murata (Eyeshield 21) is one of the most exciting artists in manga. There’s something truly electrifying about his work, from the way he composes his panels to his meticulously crafted angles and character poses, and his skills have been next level flexing in the pages of One-Punch Man.
One-Punch Man started off as a webcomic by ONE and, as the legend (AKA the first page bio in the print edition) goes, Murata discovered it on Twitter, got in touch with the author, and made a direct appeal to draw it. Let’s be glad he did, because his love for the material really shines through in the first two volumes, packing in an entire series worth of towering monsters and a single hero who can destroy them all with one effortless swing.
Skeptics will immediately see knuckle-dented holes in One-Punch Man‘s premise. Saitama is an average, if very bald, dude who became a hero for fun. He went the traditional route, training for years and pushing his body to the limit, and now he can blast a badguy’s ribs backwards out of his body and send colossal creatures tumbling to the ground with one blow. How could anyone possibly make a series out of what amounts to a one-chapter gag? Well, there are currently nine volumes out in Japan, it’s published simultaneously in English in Viz’s digital Weekly Shonen Jump, and an anime adaptation is set to begin on October 4. The concept may seem thin, but there’s more to it than Saitama punching things into oblivion. New characters are regularly introduced, fresh threats and bizarre situations pop up around every corner, and Yusuke Murata draws the hell out of every single moment.
But mostly One-Punch Man is funny, loose, and openly dismissive of traditional superhero backstories and villainous braggadocio. One of the best things about it is Saitama, whose motivation can turn in a split second depending on who’s currently biting his style, or how much the general populace seems to be ignoring him and his heroic feats. The good jokes are just as abundant as the heavy-hitting moments of violent fighting, making for one of the most entertaining reads currently available on the shelves.
Look at this spread from volume 2 featuring Saitama’s new cyborg follower Genos, photographed for the purpose of comics education. It’s a two-page master class in guiding the reader’s eyes, and Murata manages to make one large panel look like an animated burst of action.
If One-Punch Man sounds like a stupid idea to you, that’s as good a reason as any to pick it up. Viz just started releasing the series in print, and the first two volumes are out now. They’ll keep you busy for the moment, but you’ll soon be clamoring for more from Saitama and what will hopefully become an expanding roster of hopeless disciples trying to find out just how in the world he does it. Murata is my Saitama.
Art: Yusuke Murata
Publisher: VIZ Media
© 2012 by ONE, Yusuke Murata