FIST OF THE NORTH STAR Friday is once more upon us, and this entry is likely to be the shortest of the series for reasons about to become fully apparent.
The third Master Edition volume features the meat of the overlong Jackal arc and is notable only for some memorable bits of villainous cruelty and the sole genuine giant monster faced by Kenshiro.
This arc's "big bad," Jackal, is one of those post-nuke gang leaders who pretty much infest this series and he's one of the least interesting, basically spending his time bullying his men (who would work for this asshole?), preying upon helpless villages for their food and water, and taking great glee in the torture and murder of children. In other words, he's cowardly, low-rent trash and certainly not a worthy opponent for a master of superhuman kung fu like Kenshiro.
Jackal: a thoroughly run-of-the-mill villain who wasn't interesting even when first seen nearly twenty-five years ago.
The Jackal arc gives us a look into the roots of Ken's annoying sidekick, Bat, when we are introduced to the residents of the isolated village where he and a gaggle of children were cared for by an aged adoptive mother figure, and it's through them that we see past Bat's seemingly self-serving attitude and bravado and discover that he left the village so his adopted brothers and sisters would have more food and water. And speaking of water, Jackal gets wind of the village having a well and immediately decides to take it for himself, and fuck what happens to the old lady and the kids. The situation builds as Ken uses his powers to give new life to the dried-up well and Jackal causes the deaths of some of the kids and the old lady. Thus motivated, Ken gives chase to an understandably scared-shitless Jackal, but Jackal's trail leads to a staggeringly secure prison designed to hold "Devil Rebirth," a King Kong-sized ultra-deadly martial artist who once killed 700 men with his bare hands in one fell swoop, so guess who has to fight him?
It's all pretty silly stuff, even by the loony standards of FIST OF THE NORTH STAR, and if not for the few pages near the end of the volume that kick off the next arc, this volume could be completely skipped over without in any way impairing the flow of the overall narrative (episodic though it may be, it's really all one very long "warrior's journey" epic, so missing this volume is like missing two minutes of incidental dialogue in a LORD OF THE RINGS movie). But be that as it may, this arc is where we really start to see the proliferation of truly superpowered feats on the part of Kenshiro, including displays of super-strength and the first mention of the Hokuto Shinken-user's 100% mastery of the human body and mind (as opposed to Joe Sixpacks like you and I who purportedly use a mere 30%).
Let the outright superheroics begin: Kenshiro hefts a big fuckin' boulder like it was a sack of potatoes.
The last few pages introduce readers to the wandering wildman Rei, a massively popular character who proved vital to the series and became one of the classic tragic figures in '80's manga and anime, but more on him in the review of the next volume...
Next week: Volume 4, featuring the evil of the Fang Clan, the introduction of the warrior woman Mamiya, and the coming of Rei.