In my review for One-Punch Man Volume 10, I mentioned that One-Punch Man’s continuity and setting are so lively that the characters seem to flout the plot and party wherever and whenever they want. And in One-Punch Man Volume 11, continuity swells, the setting hulks out, and the backdrop gains its own threat level, so that Saitama himself becomes, if not entirely insignificant, almost invisible to the monstrous One-Punch Man universe that prefers to slither around sidebars and supporting characters. As expected, Saitama’s omnipotent punch proves less than efficacious against this abstract kaiju, The Setting, and this God-level backdrop exerts a pythonesque squeeze so that the reader feels comfortably immobile for the thirty minutes it takes to read Volume 11, all the while barely noticing the disappearance of the protagonist. And so we follow the antics of Metal Bat, Metal Bat’s little sister Zenko, a Hero Association executive and his hilariously ugly and spoiled brat, and Garo the Monster through the increasingly decompressed tracts of One-Punch Man, until we find Saitama in a moment of recognition accented by his ridiculous wig.
The bulk of volume eleven, however, concerns Metal Bat’s bad day, in which he fights the threat level Dragon monster Centichoro until the gigantic centipede slugs the hero so far that he falls right at Garo the Hero Hunter’s feet. Metal Bat is less than enthusiastic to fight Garo, and during their battle, Metal Bat mentions many times that they need to hurry things along so that he can go save the city from the kaiju centipede. Garo, of course, considers himself the true monster of One-Punch Man, so it is funny to see his egotism crushed a little bit when Metal Bat doesn’t rush to fight him, but merely deigns to do so.
During Metal Bat’s trials and tribulations, Saitama is never in any danger, unless you count his suicidal fashion sense. For our Caped Baldy, in disguise, enters a martial arts tournament, with his major distinction being that he has outdone Peter Parker’s terrible wrestling costume in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man, and crowned himself with a hilarious wig. And while Saitama is preoccupied, the villain group that Garo turned down in Volume 9 makes their move and assaults every hero on the streets.
Yes, there’s an entertaining and humorous bonus manga in this volume, but no, I won’t spoil it for you.
One-Punch Man continues to be both a funny and exciting ride that is enjoyable both on the surface, that of being an action comedy that isn’t afraid to stoop to slapstick, and on the bonus level that is just below that surface, that of a postmodern tale that doesn’t engage a superhero trope without explosively humorous deconstruction of that trope. Just in Volume 11, not only is the concept of the hero deconstructed (we have an absentee protagonist, a reluctant proxy protagonist, and a villain wannabe protagonist), but the concept of the victim is deconstructed as well, as the people in need of rescuing aren’t the beautiful extras that usually appear in superhero rescue scenes, but are, instead, a loathsome and ugly brat, and an equally noxious parent, so that you sympathize not with those being rescued, but with the hero, whose sense of duty has to be leveraged to do as he ought. While readers that aren’t looking for the experimental nature of this manga won’t notice and won’t care about its postmodern structure and the questions it raises about the superhero genre, readers who have been reading superhero comics or shonen manga for a long time and are looking for something new will be really happy with One-Punch Man.
One-Punch Man Volume 11 arrived in stores on March 7th, 2017, but if you find it sold out you can buy a print or digital edition through Viz. Viz also has a twenty page preview available through that hyperlink.
Viz sent the review copy.