Monday, January 27, 2020


Story by: Akira Toriyama | Art by: Toyotarou

Volume 2 of DRAGON BALL SUPER picks up where the first book ended, with Goku fighting Frost in the Universe 7 and 8 tournament. Goku appears to have the upper hand for the duration of their fight, until Frost abruptly turns the tables and knocks him out of the ring. Piccolo steps in to battle Frost next, and while he puts up a semi-decent showing, it's a foregone conclusion that he will lose as well -- and he does, in fairly short order. But the defeats of Goku and Piccolo allow Jaco's sharp eyes to spot the fact that Frost is using a poison-tipped needle against his opponents in violation of the tournament's rules. Frost is about to be disqualified, but Vegeta, Universe 7's next fighter, tells him to remain in the ring. Vegeta steps in, and swiftly eliminates Frost.

Much as I love DRAGON BALL, there is something about it which continually drives me nuts, and that's the "power creep" that runs throughout the saga. I understand that its genre requires the villains to become more and more powerful and the heroes to do likewise in order to beat them. And here we are, in the latest incarnation of a story that started with a kid who, while extraordinarily powerful, was still basically human -- and who is now able to harness the power of a god to fight his battles. I should note that, while I find the level of power on display in later DRAGON BALL (Z) and all of SUPER to be absurd, that doesn't bug me all that much. What gets me is the way certain characters are left way, way behind in the dust as these stories proceed

In early DRAGON BALL, Goku was the protagonist and maintained his position as the series' strongest fighter most of the time. But Yamcha, Krillin, and Tien were never that drastically far behind him (Tien was in fact Goku's equal when he first appeared). Then Piccolo came along and joined the good guys and became the second most powerful warrior. By the time of the Android/Cell storyline, Vegeta was a member of the team as well and had become number 2. Gohan spent a moment as the strongest fighter, but when the Boo saga hit, it was generally Goku at the top again, most of the time. And ever since, DRAGON BALL has been the "all Saiyans, all the time" series -- and that's what bugs me.

Friday, January 24, 2020


The first Unboxing of the year is a little light on physical books, but quite hefty on digital. First, Christmas gifts: from my lovely wife and from my parents, I received two more installments in the Carl Barks Disney Library from Fantagraphics: THE MINES OF KING SOLOMON and CHRISTMAS IN DUCKBURG.

Then, my normal book shipment for the month contained one Marvel tome: X-MEN: SHATTERSHOT, an oversized hardcover collecting a run of issues from X-MEN vol. 2. This book replaces the previously issued trade paperback, A SKINNING OF SOULS, as it includes all the issues contained therein plus more.

(Apologies; I haven't had a chance to take pictures of these books yet. When I eventually do, I'll add them to this post.)

And then we move into the digital realm. Remember last month when I mentioned the huge sale Marvel was having on Epic Collections, for only five bucks a pop? Well, I received some Amazon gift cards for Christmas and I, uhh... may have gone a little overboard. I have a huge blind spot for Marvel's Silver Age catalog, outside of Spider-Man and to some extent the X-Men, so I decided to stock up. Who knows if I'll ever find time to read all of these, but I picked up all of the following:
Also, via a couple of other Amazon/Comixology digital Marvel sales to start the year, I picked up DEFENDERS: INDEFENSIBLE and GALACTUS THE DEVOURER.

And lastly, in a recent Fantagraphics sale, I grabbed the digital version of THE CARL BARKS DISNEY LIBRARY: THE MINES OF KING SOLOMON, as well as MICKEY MOUSE: THE PHANTOM BLOT'S DOUBLE MYSTERY.

Whew! That's it (and isn't it enough?) for January. Next month should be considerably lighter, I hope! Catch you in February!

Monday, January 20, 2020


Story by: Akira Toriyama | Art by: Toyotarou

The original DRAGON BALL manga (and the DRAGON BALL Z TV series which adapted it) ended with the series' main character, Goku, defeating the evil Majin Boo* and bringing peace to the universe. There was also a brief coda following this battle, set ten years later, to wrap everything up. DRAGON BALL SUPER is set between Boo's defeat and the "ten years later" sequence, following the adventures of Goku and his friends in that timeframe.

The SUPER manga begins with an adaptation of the 2013 BATTLE OF GODS movie. Goku's existence comes to the attention of a deity named Beerus, the God of Destruction. Beerus comes to Earth to challenge Goku to a fight, in hopes that the hero will transform into the legendary "Super Saiyan God".

(By the way, I'm sort of assuming that you know what a Saiyan is. I'm writing this with the idea that the reader is familiar with at least the basics of the DRAGON BALL saga. It's hard to go in cold reviewing the new installments of a thirty-plus year-old property without having written about any of the material that came before!)

So Beerus and Goku fight and, sure enough, Goku achieves the Super Saiyan God form. Beerus thanks Goku for a good fight, then departs -- but not before informing Goku that the universe in which he lives is actually part of a multiverse comprised of a dozen near-identical universes, each with its own great warriors (Goku's universe, for the record, is Universe 7).

Monday, January 13, 2020


Story ant Art: Akira Toriyama

It's been around seven years since JACO was published (the timeframe of its release included the build-up to, and release of, BATTLE OF GODS in Japanese theaters), so I don't recall if it was touted up front as a DRAGON BALL prequel -- but it becomes evident almost immediately in chapter one that that's exactly what it is. But at the same time, it's its own thing and pretty funny too, in its own right.

The story begins with our hero, a goofy space cop named Jaco, crash-landing on a small nearly-deserted island on Earth. The island's only inhabitant is an old man named Omori, who lives as a hermit following the death of his wife years earlier. Jaco reveals that he came to Earth to intercept a being currently en route from a planet of savage warriors. This, combined with glimpses of domelike architecture common in DRAGON BALL, are our first clues that the manga is set in the DB universe, and likely a prequel.

If only to get rid of Jaco, Omari -- a one-time research scientist who was originally on the island to work on a time machine -- begins repairing the patrolman's spaceship. Government operatives soon appear, ordering Omori to leave the island, and soon after, Omori realizes that he needs a rare and valuable element called "sky gold" in order to get it running. Realizing he may be stuck with Jaco for a while, Omori takes his guest to the mainland for some grocery shopping. There, Jaco stops some crimes and becomes wanted by the police. The unlikely duo meets a girl named Tights, who helps them escape the cops and returns to the island with them.

Monday, January 6, 2020


(And a couple related items.)

The beginning of the year is manga time around here, and in 2020 I've decided to look at the latest iteration of a series that's near and dear to me: DRAGON BALL. I think I got into DRAGON BALL Z somewhere around early college, when it aired weekday afternoons on Cartoon Network's Toonami programming block. Not too long after that, I started reading the manga upon which the series was based -- first "scanlations" found online, and later official releases from Viz. It was in the manga format that I fell in love with the original DRAGON BALL, which followed the main characters as kids and teenagers, and I still prefer that iteration to this day over "Z".

But right now, we aren't talking about the original series or its anime adaptation. Because in recent years, after a couple decades of very little new material, there's been a DRAGON BALL resurgence in Japan, with tons of new content which has naturally found its way to America as well. It started in 2013 with a theatrical film called BATTLE OF GODS, which was followed in 2015 by a sequel, RESURRECTION "F". also in 2015, a new TV series debuted: DRAGON BALL SUPER -- and its earliest storylines adapted the two films into a serialized format before moving along into new material.

Alongside SUPER, a new DRAGON BALL manga series with the same title premiered... and that, dear reader, is what we'll be looking at here over the next few weeks. The SUPER manga follows the same general plot as the show, but with some tweaks here and there. It's written by the series' creator, Akira Toriyama, with artwork from Toyotarou. (The TV show also follows a general outline from Toriyama, though I understand the two series have diverged here and there in certain ways, and the manga has now passed the anime to move into original territory.)

But! Before we jump into DB SUPER, we're going to make one quick detour to check out a manga Toriyama wrote and drew in 2013, JACO THE GALACTIC PATROLMAN. I'm not sure anyone expected it at the time, but the series' title character would become a recurring presence in SUPER, so that seems like a good place to kick things off.

So -- one week from today. DRAGON BALL. Be there.