Sunday, 10 August 2014

Dragon Ball, Volume 4: Strongest Under the Heavens Review (Akira Toriyama)

The Tenka’ichi Budokai, or “Strongest Under the Heavens” fighting tournament is in full swing, taking up this entire book. Yamcha squares off against “Jackie Chun” (the Turtle Master in the worst disguise ever!), a couple of minor characters called Ran Fuan (a sex object pretending to be a character) vs Namu, probably the only character in the contest who has real impetus to win the prize money: so he can buy water for his dry village. Son Goku takes on Giran Kaiju and Kuririn waits for his second round, having won his fight in the last book. 

Whenever I read a comic book full of superhero fighting, usually by Marvel or DC, I end up hating it or being bored with it, but I wasn’t with Dragon Ball Volume 4, though it’s basically non-stop fighting. Why? I think it’s partly due to Akira Toriyama being both artist and writer. With superhero comics, there’s usually a writer and an artist and, if you read some of the scripts to those comics, the writer will basically hand over to the artist with the fight scenes, saying something like “Wolverine and villain fight for 5 pages”, leaving it up to the artist to figure out the most entertaining way to portray that. 

That method’s fine but it feels like filler more than anything because superhero comics always need fighting - the story is already plotted, we’re just watching things play out before the story resumes once the writer takes over. Because Toriyama is both artist and writer, there’s no such gap - the story and the fighting are intertwined so each fight is part of the overall narrative, meaning there’s never a pause while characters battle pointlessly before going back to the story.

At least, that’s how it seems to me! 

I won’t give away who beats who because finding out is part of the fun of this volume, but each fight is interesting in its own way because of the different personalities of the characters. Goku continues to improve at an incredible pace, with his kamehameha becoming as strong as Kame-Sen’in’s already! With so much potential, who knows where Goku’s powers will end?

Volume 4 is a super-awesome, enjoyable book that I blew through because it was so enthralling. Toriyama keeps up the fun and invention of Dragon Ball while ramping up the action and drama with this brilliant fighting contest. Who will win the final round? Find out in the next volume. Wonderful stuff!

Dragon Ball, Volume 4: Strongest Under the Heavens

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