Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Dragon Ball Super, Volume 2 Review (Akira Toriyama, Toyotarou)

In the second volume of Dragon Ball Super, Dragon Ball does what Dragon Ball does best: fighting tournaments! It’s Universe 6 vs Universe 7 for the prize of the Super Dragon Balls! Who’ll win? (Clue: Goku is on Universe 7’s side!) 

I was really looking forward to this one after that strong first volume so I was a bit let down with this disappointing second book. It’s not bad but it’s not that great either. The fighting felt rushed and wasn’t as exciting as it usually is and then, like a rancid fart, the worst Dragon Ball storyline ever – future Trunks and the Androids – wafts in threatening to stink up the whole series again! Nooooo!

I can see why Akira Toriyama’s focused on this idea of parallel universes as it allows him to shamelessly rehash his greatest hits under the veneer that it’s technically “new”. So we get a pseudo-Strongest Under the Heavens Tournament that pits Goku and Vegeta against the Freeza clone, Frost. I didn’t mind that much though as the Freeza arc is arguably the best Dragon Ball storyline for a reason and the fighting is generally entertaining enough to read. It’s cool to see Goku Kamehameha again and Vegeta destroying his opponent was satisfying after what that guy did up to that point.

There are some surprises in the fights too – Frost definitely isn’t as formidable as Freeza and has to rely on being extra-sneaky - and I liked the new Saiyan character, Cabbe, if only to see a new side to Vegeta who acts as a harsh, but effective, mentor to the kid. I expect we’ll see more of Cabbe later on as a feature of Dragon Ball is to continually grow the cast. 

Toriyama is still able to balance drama and farce well. After the intense Vegeta/Frost and Goku/Hit fights, the nip-tastic Monaka – the Universe 7 “champion” - steps up and… yeah. I’ve always liked that Dragon Ball doesn’t take itself too seriously, I think that’s a big part of its success.

Maybe it’s a reaction to how some people viewed the original fights as overlong (which they definitely were though I’m in the camp of “Don’t care, they’re amazing, make them as long as you need!”), but the fights in this tournament felt truncated so I couldn’t really get that into them as much. There wasn’t much build-up to the matches, they ended abruptly and the new opponents (a giant robot, a guy wearing a long coat whose hands are in his pockets) are dull and unmemorable non-entities. And you’d be forgiven for forgetting the stakes as it doesn’t really factor into anything and the resolution of the tournament is glossed over and pointless.

To my dismay, the second half of the book returns to the dystopian future where the hated Androids came from. They were the absolute worst part of Dragon Ball Z and just the hint of that arc was enough to make me uneasy. I just don’t like future Trunks and his crappy world – the overly grim tone and derivative sci-fi elements (coughTerminatorcough) feel antithetical to Dragon Ball. Nor is it ever interesting and becomes especially tedious once the time-travel exposition kicks in. Maybe it’ll be good this time around with the new villain, Goku Black, but I won’t be complaining if Toriyama cuts it short like he did the Universes 6/7 tournament!

Toyotarou’s art is intentionally identical to Toriyama’s so there isn’t much to say there except to mention that Goku and Vegeta’s new powers – Super Saiyan Blue for Vegeta and Super Saiyan Red for Goku, aka Super Saiyan God – are a bit wasted in a black and white comic!

As a huge Dragon Ball fan, I’m glad to see new Dragon Ball books appearing but Volume 2 is a mediocre entry to the saga – definitely lower those expectations going in. Hopefully Volume 3 is more fun!

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