Fight manga has been a big part of otaku culture since the 60s, spawning celebrated mega-franchises like Dragon Ball and Naruto, as well as hundreds of pretenders hoping to be the next big thing. In western media, however, fighting has seldom been the central conceit of comics. Oh sure, there are outliers like Iron Fist or Shang Chi, but American comics have typically been more built around superheroics than martial arts masters. With No One Left to Fight, the creative team of Aubrey Sitterson and Fico Ossio is hoping to bring that same enthusiasm for action-heavy combat-driven narratives about buff dudes doing special moves to one another in order to save the world from planet-busting space emperors and bio-engineered mutant bug men to the west. Now those are some mighty big shoes to fill, and judging by the first issue, there’s still some work to do.
Much like its spiritual inspiration, the world of No One Left to Fight is a mixture of fantasy, super science and just a splash of traditional cartoon imagery. This is a land populated by humanoids, sentient crab men and enormous dragons intermingling with flying robots and funicular cable cars in the midst of an expansive cosmopolitan cityscape straight out of Buck Rogers or Valerian. Some may be put off when our protagonist, Vale, is confronted by what seems to be a rastafied giant crab man, but it’s important to remember that the emperor of Earth in DBZ is a Kerry Blue Terrier named King Furry. No, seriously. But back to Vale, we don’t get a ton of insight into his life, but as a Goku subordinate there are a few notable differences. For one it looks like Vale never settled down and had a family, instead going on a journey of self discovery after defeating the evil alien Gor Despo (himself a clear analogue of King Piccolo). It also appears he is dealing with a seemingly unrequited attraction to Krysta, the NOLTF version of Bulma, which sets up a far more interesting conflict between he and her husband (and ersatz Vegeta) Timor.
It’s that conflict that seems at the heart of the series in this early going, and it’s a great place to start. As a series ostensibly aimed at kids, Dragon Ball is not really at liberty to approach such mature or provocative topics, which is one of the biggest selling points for this series. There are consequences of earth shattering power, and rivalries spurn a more ardent form of jealousy than we ever got to see in Akira Toriyama’s long-running saga. Vale is also a more nuanced and human protagonist than the childlike Goku, which provides a lot of fun opportunities for interactions as the book moves on.
You may notice that a lot of this review has centered on NOLTF‘s similarities to another series, and while that does provide a lot of insight into some of the dynamics and character traits only hinted at in this first issue, it does mean that new readers may be a bit lost. The one real criticism to levy at the book, excluding the Lisa Frank color palette (which I’m not crazy about), is that there is a lot of context that readers will have to assume. You have to have a passing familiarity with the kind of sci-fi world to understand the setting, you’ll need some familiarity with martial arts manga or video games to understand the kind of skills/powers our protagonists possess – short of building the love triangle, most of what we learn is by inference. To be entirely fair, this is the first issue and world building (by design) takes time, so it’s certainly not a detriment, it’s just something readers new to the genre will probably want to keep in mind.
Overall, No One Left to Fight is a fun romp with a big upside. This is essentially a fight manga with western art and a Dayglo color-scheme. As a first issue, we only get a tease of things to come, but there’s enough here to rope you in. It looks like issue 2 will be more combat-focussed, which will be good for the series, but this is a good base to jump off from.
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