My Hero Academia #1 by Kohei Horikoshi
Izuku Midoriya’s dream is to become a superhero, like his idol All Might. The problem with that idea is that Midoriya belongs to the minority of people on his world who were born without a Quirk, a superpower of some kind. His former friend Katsuki Bakugo, who has a powerful Quirk and is naturally gifted, rubs this in at every opportunity, calling Midoriya “Deku” (no good qualities.) Midoriya has been training hard, but even when he meets his idol, he’s told that there’s no way he can become a superhero if he doesn’t have any powers.
But then Midoriya proves he has the heart of a hero, attempting to rescue Bakugo from a powerful villain despite not having a chance of doing so. All Might reveals that there is a way Midoriya can earn a Quirk, and go to U.A. High, the magnet school for aspiring superheroes. Izuku Midoriya can turn around the “Deku” nickname, and make it mean “never gives up.”
This shounen manga homage to American superhero comics was something of a sleeper hit; Mr. Horikoshi’s previous two efforts had a lukewarm reception, and the immediately preceding series, Barrage, tanked. So the online edition of Shonen Jump didn’t even bother running a preview when it debuted. But this time Horikoshi is firing on all cylinders.
The setting is an alternate Earth where superpowers began appearing about five generations ago–it’s not clear if it’s the present day with huge changes, or a future where fashion and technology stagnated. Eighty percent of the population was born with some sort of power, called Quirks. Most Quirks are pretty minor (has tail, can attract small objects to hand from a foot away) but others are very impressive (Bakugo can create firey explosions from his sweat, Mount Woman can become a giant.) There are many criminals who use their Quirks for evil, so there are professional superheroes who stop them.
There’s a lot to like about this series. Deku (as everyone winds up calling him) is not the idiot hero so common in shounen, but a thinker who wins battles and solves problems with observation and planning. Even when he earns the powerful Quirk “One For All” the power is difficult to use, so his brain is his greatest weapon. And yet he still possesses the compassion and courage of a true hero.
There’s also a good supporting cast. Bakugo makes a strong contrast as the kid who has had all the advantages handed to him by birth, and takes it as his rightful due. His arrogance and sense of entitlement make him an ass, and he doesn’t lose much of that even after learning that no one at U.A. is going to put up with his crap. He does, however, quit with the bullying after events in Volume Two.
Other classmates include nice (but dangerous) girl Ochako and the overly serious Iida, who get the most focus in this volume. Unlike other school-based series, where we only follow the hero and a handful of his friends, every classmate is a distinctive person and many will get spotlights in future volumes. There’s also an assortment of teachers with varying personalities.
The tone is closest to Bronze Age DC Comics; some bad things happen, but the general tone is optimistic, never overdosing on grimdark or angst.
As mentioned, there’s some bullying in the early chapters, and superheroic violence. There’s also fanservice in the form of female superheroes wearing skin-tight costumes (but not every female character chooses to do so.) Nothing a junior high or up reader can’t handle.
Highly recommended to fans of teen superheroes and those who like their comics light-hearted.