Sunday, 19 October 2014

Dragon Ball Z, Volume 22: The Fated Showdown: Son Goku vs Vegeta Review (Akira Toriyama)

In this, the 38th Dragon Ball book, Son Goku, Buu, and the rest of the cast sit down to calmly and rationally debate the pros and cons of their goals. Buu wants to take over the world, Son Goku (standing in for everyone else on Earth) doesn’t want him to do this. After many chapters of reasoned, thoughtful discussion, a mutual decision is made for the benefit of both parties - all without resorting to physical violence. 


It’s Dragon Ball Z - of course it’s nothing but fighting! Talking’s for boring people! One guy - who looks like Satan - spits at Kuririn and Piccolo and turns them to stone - you don’t want to kiss this dude! Then Vegeta blowed up another guy with a fireball - wicked cool! Son Goku and Vegeta have a rematch - boy, I hope one of them dies again! Fight fight fight and the evil genie Buu returns. The planet’s doomed unless Goku and co. can fight him harder!!

It sounds like I’m taking the piss (and I kind of am albeit in a good natured way) because Dragon Ball is soooo one note. Of course it is, it’s a martial arts comic, fighting is the whole point, you say. But how can it still be good 38 books down the line? It’s just fun! Lord help me, it’s just fun watching Son Goku, Vegeta, and Son Gohan fight a bunch of alien monsters in a series of fights. For 38 books. It is! 

It’s also because the fighting is so well told. Compare DBZ to Marvel/DC and their fights are a handful of pages - maybe 4 or 5 pages per issue max - which are quickly over with. Superman punches a bad guy, Spidey hurls some webs at someone, and it’s done. They're there to keep things from getting too stale, maybe there's been a lot of dialogue, add some excitement, and that sort of thing. On the other hand, DBZ fights take up entire books! 

There’s the parry, the joust, one level of power giving way to another, surprises thrown in, faster action, another level of power, one fighter gets the upper hand, then the next, more surprises, an even higher level of power, stakes raised further and further; it takes time to build up to a fight’s finale and it’s really involving for the reader, which is only partly due to the length. Akira Toriyama takes what sounds brainless - a comic full of fights between superheroes - and elevates it as an art form and its own distinct narrative style. 

Even the side story of Son Goten and Trunks (posing as the fighter Mighty Mask), #18 and Hercule in a battle royale at the Strongest Under the Heavens tournament is full of tension and its own surprises! 

DBZ Volume 22 is Toriyama on his way to cooking at full power once again, perfect timing for the closeout to the title. The series has definitely picked up with this book, it’s full of drive and purpose, and (yeah!) it’s a lot of fun. Buu is back and the guys face their biggest challenge yet - don’t stop fighting, guys!

Dragon Ball Z, Volume 22: The Fated Showdown: Son Goku vs Vegeta

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