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Inside Good Comics For Kids

Review: ‘Dragon Ball Super’ Vol. 1

Dragon Ball Super coverDragon Ball Super, vol. 1
Writer: Akira Toriyama
Artist: Toyotarou
Viz Media; $9.99
Rated T for Teen

The anime series Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z, which ran for a whole decade on Japanese television, were based on artist Akira Toriyama’s epic 11-year, 519-chapter manga series, Dragon Ball. The newest Dragon Ball comics, which just saw print release in the United States this month in the form of Dragon Ball Super, vol. 1, are exactly the reverse: They are comics adaptations of an anime series.

That anime series is also called Dragon Ball Super, which takes its name from the existence of giant, planet-sized Dragon Balls, which are quite literally super-sized. Set a few years after the events of the Dragon Ball Z series (and ignoring Dragon Ball GT), it opens with Goku appropriately enough retired from the fighting game, somewhat listlessly applying himself to farming when he’s not busy training.

He and his friends and family are plunged back into high-stakes battles for the fate of the planet when Lord Beerus, a god of destruction, awakens and comes to Earth seeking a true challenge. Beerus, who looks like a bipedal hairless housecat, zeroes in on the Saiyans and, like so many of Goku’s foes, becomes rather enamored with him, and they eventually become allies of a sort.

Toriyama is credited with writing and supervising the manga adaptation, while artist Toyotarou handles the actual drawing. The manga races through the first two arcs of the TV series, versions of which were also told in feature film format as Battle of The Gods and Resurrection of F, before the storyline really begins to take shape.

Consistent with the franchise’s there’s always someone stronger precept, Goku learns that Beerus is only one god of destruction, that of his universe, Universe 7. His twin brother, Champa, is the god of destruction of the neighboring Universe 6, and when the pair come into conflict, it is decided they will settle it in an extremely Dragon Ball fashion: A martial arts tournament that pits a team of the greatest fighters from each of the twin dimensions against one another.

Naturally, Beerus’ team includes Goku, and Goku’s former-enemies-turned-allies Vegeta and Piccolo, while their opponents include alternate dimension versions of a Saiyan and Freeza, the worst villain Goku and his friends had ever faced. By the close of this first volume, Goku has defeated one bizarre alien opponent and is well into his battle with the Freeza-like foe.

If one isn’t already enamored with Dragon Ball, either the manga or the anime, it is hard to imagine that Dragon Ball Super will suddenly win them over. Not only is it bursting at the panel gutters with the franchise’s huge cast, including minor characters from the very first volume of Dragon Ball, but it repeats familiar beats so regularly and faithfully as to be either tiresome or welcome, depending on one’s level of affection for the the characters and their past adventures.

If one is a fan, though, Super offers more of the same in a very good way. While Toyotarou is not Toriyama, he’s mastered the master’s designs, and he perfectly executes the sort of action that dominated Toriyama’s storyline by the point at which Goku grew up from the little kid of the earliest volumes to the adult warrior seen in those that were adapted into Dragon Ball Z.

Having already pushed our kung fu heroes into the realm of super-powered space aliens and the divine, Super offers the next logical step, alternate universe versions of the same, allowing the fights to get bigger and bigger and the opponents tougher and tougher, so that Toriyama and his collaborators are continually maxing out the hyperbolic nature of any single fight…and then taking it to the next level. Thirty years after Toriyama first introduced Goku to the world, it seems he’s still trying to find the ceiling of the character’s particular brand of over-the-top action.

Super also charmingly continues the less obvious aspect of the series, Goku’s guileless, innocent good nature’s effect on others, which continually wins over his mortal enemies and turns them into friends. In this volume, we see Beerus go from a destroyer of worlds to recruiting a team consisting almost exclusively of his one-time would-be victims. Chances are his rival Champa and his warriors will end up fighting side-by-side with Goku when the next big threat comes along.

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J. Caleb Mozzocco About J. Caleb Mozzocco

J. Caleb Mozzocco is a way-too-busy freelance writer who has written about comics for online and print venues for a rather long time now. He currently contributes to Comic Book Resources' Robot 6 blog and ComicsAlliance, and maintains his own daily-ish blog at EveryDayIsLikeWednesday.blogspot.com. He lives in northeast Ohio, where he works as a circulation clerk at a public library by day.

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