Friday, 12 May 2017

Dragon Ball Super, Volume 1 Review (Akira Toriyama, Toyotarou)


The Dragon Ball saga ended in 1995 with Dragon Ball Z after 42 volumes. Akira Toriyama’s bestselling title left behind a legacy as one of the most original, popular, influential and genre-defining comics in the world. Since then it’s only gotten more fans through the anime, the movies, and computer games, showing that there’s still an appetite for these characters and their stories.

Now, 22 years later, the official sequel and continuation of the saga was published this week: Dragon Ball Super, Volume 1. (I know Viz was publishing the English translation chapters on their site for free last year but I hate their format - the text and pictures are too scrunchy - so I waited for the collected edition instead.) Toriyama is no longer drawing it, having hired a new artist in Toyotarou, but he’s still in the driving seat, writing the storylines. And I’m pleased to say he’s still got it - Dragon Ball Super IS super! 

Some time has passed since Son Goku defeated Boo and saved Earth. But a new threat has emerged: Beerus, the God of Destruction, who brings with him new knowledge of a multiverse, new Dragon Balls, and a new level of Saiyan power: Super Saiyan God! Now, Goku, as well as the rest of the Dragon Ball cast, find themselves in a new tournament, battling against an array of new powerful foes for the fate of the multiverse! 

It’s worth noting that the original Dragon Ball series was first a manga and then got adapted into an anime; this time around Dragon Ball Super started out as an anime and has been adapted into a manga. And this is my only problem with the book: I haven’t ever watched any of the Dragon Ball anime, it’s never appealed to me; my love of Dragon Ball stems purely from the comics - I know I’m in the minority on this one. But I think that’s why the story in the early part of the book is rushed in places. Some of the scenes are a bit choppy with notes from the editor saying things like “Check out the Battle of the Gods movie to see how we got here”. What?! I don’t want to have to watch a movie to see what happened from one scene to the next - that should all be in the book! Anyway, that’s my only criticism. 

I loved seeing all the characters again: Goku, Vegeta, Piccolo, Bulma, etc. and the expansion of the Dragon Ball universe with new universes, new Dragon Balls (the size of planets!), and new power levels was excellent. The new villains are cool - Beerus and his brother Champa look like Ancient Egyptian cat gods - and I like that there are new Saiyans, a new Freeza-type challenger, and I can’t wait to see what Mr Monaka - apparently the only fighter in the universe more powerful than Son Goku - can do. 

Toriyama may not be drawing it this time around but if no-one told me that I wouldn’t have noticed - Toyotarou’s art is identical to Toriyama’s! The charming, familiar humour is there - Bulma’s meeting with new character Lord Zuno was funny as was the universe anthem, Beerus and Champa’s food battle and the IQ test all the fighters had to pass before the tournament (poor Majin Boo!) - and the story structure is similar with the hunt for the Dragon Balls and the tournament. The fight scenes remain the centrepieces of the story - Dragon Ball is at its best when it comes to the fight scenes because at its core it’s a martial arts comic and no other title does it better. In all the ways that matter, this is definitely and recognisably Dragon Ball. 

A must read for all Dragon Ball fans, as well as martial arts comics fans and anyone looking for a great manga, Dragon Ball Super is a very welcome return for this classic title. I really enjoyed it and I’m delighted we’re getting new Dragon Ball comics for a new 21st century audience as well as long-time fans - looking forward to more! 


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