by Jarrod Jones. A warrior returns home after years of victory to find his life is wanting. It’s a crisis of self, a screaming desire for that elusive want. It’s No One Left to Fight, a new series from Aubrey Sitterson, Fico Ossio, featuring letter work by Taylor Esposito and published by Dark Horse Comics. If you’ve seen Dragon Ball Z (and we know you have), you know what a warrior does when it’s time to throw down. But what does a warrior do when… well, you got the title. What happens next?
“The goal was to tell a story inspired by Dragon Ball in both genre and visual style, but imbued with the kind of heavy themes that you might not expect from a shōnen-style fight comic,” Ossio tells me. “It was important to us that No One Left to Fight‘s characters’ inner lives be just as rich and complex as the world we’ve built around them—that way they’re even more real and relatable.”
Those themes Ossio is talking about? Duty. Honor. And, above all else, family. The stuff that makes our hearts soft, and our resolve turn to iron. For the character Vâle, the fight is behind him (he hopes), and that swagger of his—punctuated by magenta locks and a study championship belt—has lessened as a result. Those broad shoulders are lower than they used to be, because while he was out swinging those mighty fists of fury… the world went and moved on without him.
It’s fascinating kitchen-sink stuff, the kind of drama that makes you ruminate on your own station in life. And then there’s the fisticuffs. And the manga influences. And the neon-soaked aesthetic that screams “Saturday morning cartoon” while its heart beats with the rhythm of old school Robert Altman. Sitterson drives the essence home. “The goal with No One Really Left to Fight was really to take everything we love about the greatest fight comics/manga/anime franchise of all time, Dragon Ball, and figure out ways to amp up the drama even more.
“We don’t see it as two separate or disparate approaches—the dramatic and the action-based—but rather, as a way to harness all that churning inner turmoil so that when the punches start flying they have even more impact.”
Ahead of its hotly-anticipated July 3 release, DoomRocket spoke with Aubrey Sitterson and Fico Ossio about No One Left to Fight and the beating heart that fuels their most ambitious work to date.
1. If you would, please give our readers a one-sentence breakdown of the premise to ‘No One Left to Fight’. Shortest sentence wins!
Fico Ossio: They’ve saved the world countless times but what happens when the last battle has been won? What does a fighter do when there’s no one left to fight?
Aubrey Sitterson: It’s a Dragon Ball road trip about moving into a new stage of your life! WINNER!
2. ‘No One Left To Fight’ finds its central character, Vâle, walking into a mid-life crisis. He feels his greatest accomplishments are behind him and, to add insult to injury, the only people he can rally to join him in a visit to the place of his last victory is his former lover Krysta and her beautiful family. Tell me why you wanted to join the melancholy of age with the amphetamine-addled ferocity of ‘Dragon Ball Z’, and how it’s possible to reconcile one with the other.
FO: The goal was to tell a story inspired by Dragon Ball in both genre and visual style, but imbued with the kind of heavy themes that you might not expect from a shōnen-style fight comic. We love all that stuff, but it was important to us that No One Left to Fight‘s characters’ inner lives be just as rich and complex as the world we’ve built around them—that way they’re even more real and relatable! As for reconciling the two… maybe they don’t have to! It’s that contrast between the over-the-top, vibrant art and the difficult personal struggles that makes No One Left to Fight THE COMIC YOU ALWAYS WANTED!
AS: A lot of my work deals with fighting and combat; I truly believe that it’s the best, most visual, visceral way to communicate and explore deep, inner truths about your characters. So the goal with No One Really Left to Fight was really to take everything we love about the greatest fight comics/manga/anime franchise of all time, Dragon Ball, and figure out ways to amp up the drama even more. We don’t see it as two separate or disparate approaches—the dramatic and the action-based—but rather, as a way to harness all that churning inner turmoil so that when the punches start flying they have even more impact.
3. At one point in your debut, Vâle has a lovely (but contextually inappropriate) thought come to him unbidden, of what his life might have looked like had he and Krysta stayed together. In this thought there are the comforts of home, a bit of passion, and two small children—heavy things to ruminate on when you’re in the company of a former flame. But that’s how things go sometimes, right? Sometimes our brains torture us, sure, but don’t sudden reveries such as these also reveal something about what we want—or want to be?
AS: This is a really astute reading of the text, Jarrod. Though honestly, I’d be a fool to expect anything less of you and DoomRocket! You’re really digging into the meat of what this story is about, which is incredible and extremely gratifying as we’re only about 20% of the way through. As for what Vâle’s reveries mean, or are all about, or even where they’re coming from… that’s one of the things we’ll be getting to in the remaining 80% of the story!
There’s a lot of subtlety at work here, and we’ve made a conscious decision not to hold the reader’s hand with any of it: The world, the continuity, the characters, their emotions, even the book’s larger themes. We wanted to make a book that respects our readers’ intelligence, something that encourages them to think and ruminate about what they’ve read. Like a good fight, the struggle makes the victory that much sweeter.
What do Vâle’s dilemmas hold in store for the melodrama of ‘No One Left to Fight’?
AS: Dude, you’re really putting the screws to me! Fico and I spent months—scores of back-and-forth emails before we even started pitching No One Left to Fight—fleshing out the world of No One Left to Fight, the history that informs the series, the characters’ backgrounds, their previous adventures, and, most excitingly, what comes next. We’ve got so much planned and I’m about to bust trying not to just blab it all out before the first issue even hits!
BUT… I’m staying strong. I’m refusing to give in to the temptation, because at the end of the day, No One Left to Fight is based around a road trip, and like all good road trip stories, it’s the journey itself that bestows meaning. It’s our job to give you art that not only encourages you to think about it, chewing over what you’ve seen, trying to figure out exactly what’s going on behind the characters’ eyes, but, crucially, to reward your ruminations. Once No One Left to Fight—or any of my work—is out in the world, it’s up to the readers to determine how to interpret it, so I’d hate to sully that experience because I’m too excited to properly keep a secret!
4. One thing that stood out to me about this debut was the seamless integration of recognizably modest domesticity, medieval codes of honor, and outright candy-colored manga insanity. That aesthetic should be all over the place, and yet it works. Beautifully. Tell me about how you went about rendering such a vivid, relatable, exciting world.
FO: It’s been an amazing experience. Working with Aubrey on No One Left to Fight has been so fun! It’s that sense of joy that led to us layering in so many details in the character designs, the background, the world, the story… everything. We wanted it to be the kind of rich, vivid world that we love reading about. Drawing it “manga-style” was never an option—it’s just not what I do—but we wanted to capture the elements that manga typically does so well, and that includes covering a breadth of tones in a single volume. No One Left to Fight really is the “fusion” of American comics and manga.
AS: Making No One Left to Fight has been not only my most creatively-fully experience, but also the easiest to write. Everything just fell into place as Fico and I talked about it, and I think it has everything to do with the fact that we see creation as an act of joy. This isn’t the work of a couple of tortured artists; it’s a book from two guys who are so thrilled to be telling exactly the type of story they love and always wanted to see. And we’re so incredibly grateful for the opportunity to do it at a legendary publisher like Dark Horse, the home of so many of the comics that inspired us as creators.
As for our diverse aesthetic and tonal shifts, that has everything to do with the type of art we like to experience. Truly great art is never just a single thing—all my favorite stories move deftly from comedy, to drama, to action and back again—so it was important to us that we do the same in No One Left to Fight. Not in order to plow through some checklist, but so that everything worked in concert, increasing the tension until it achieves its ultimate, cathartic release.
5. The opening page of ‘No One Left to Fight’ features Vâle wandering through a city scene, which is pulled back just enough for you to get a sense of the scale involved: From the eclectic array of robots, aliens, Orkos and common folk on ground level to the Mega-City sky-busters above (and the mighty dragons perched atop them), this world is nuts. Please tell me we’ll be journeying deep into this city and beyond.
FO: No One Left to Fight is a road trip comic, so of course we’re going to be exploring the world we created! Over the course of the story, our characters travel to a series of important, historic locations, and in the process, reconnect with our wide cast of characters, stalwart allies, vicious foes, and… maybe some that are in between.
AS: It’s cliché to say “The world is a character!” so I’ll spare you the platitudes. But the fact of the matter is this: There is an absurd amount of world-building on display in No One Left to Fight, both in the art and the story, so it’d be ridiculous not to explore it! In fact, we fleshed things out so much that it’s impossible to fit everything into five issues, especially seeing as we’ve eschewed exposition, only giving readers what they need. But that elliptic approach, one where readers are encouraged to think hard about how the lacunae get filled in, has been designed from the ground up to compel the audience to really engage with this living, breathing world.
6. I’m interested in Krysta—the jaegir arm, the confidence and good humor that comes from a hard-won life, the monk-like patience for her prickly husband, Timór. There’s a fascinating story that ‘No One Left to Fight’ has yet to reveal. Tell me a bit about Krysta’s backstory, and how she’ll impact this story.
FO: It was important to us that every character in our story had a rich inner life—no cardboard cutouts or shallow caricatures. So, with Krysta, it was all about making sure we didn’t fall into any of the obvious clichés like “damsel in distress” or “nagging lover” or “bored housewife.” She’s every bit the hero that Vâle and Timór are, with her own set of internal struggles, which, like all heroes, is what makes her truly courageous.
AS: A big part of No One Left to Fight’s appeal is piecing together the histories of these characters, but I can say this much without spoiling anything: Krysta met Vâle and Timór when they were all kids. Together, they had a series of adventures, ones where she not infrequently saved the day with her technological and mechanical wizardry—she’s the smartest person on the planet, after all! Though she suffered a major set-back in the gang’s battle against the monstrous Bruton, losing her arm in the conflict, but like every hero, she didn’t just persevere, she spun things to her advantage, working with her father, D.A.D., to build a robot arm she uses to wield the very sword that maimed her. Vâle and Timór might be the world’s best martial artists, but no one’s as badass as Krysta.
7. Speaking of Timór, what is up with that guy? Where does his enmity against Vâle come from? There’s more at stake in this rivalry than Krysta’s affections, I think.
FO: Yes! There’s a lot of story behind this too. They’ve been partners, rivals, brothers even, for as long as they can remember.
AS: Timór’s spent a lifetime being second-best, of knowing that no matter how hard he tries, or struggles, or trains, or fights, he’ll never be more than an also-ran, a footnote. And worst of all, the guy whose back he’s been doomed to stare at? He’s a handsome, kind, grinning, universally-beloved hero, one whose shadow Timór was seemingly born shackled into. Is it any surprise that he’s grouchy? I’m getting angsty just thinking about it!
8. The design of ‘No One Left to Fight’ is as rich as the world it represents. If you would, please share the influences that compelled you to conjure such complexity, and how your gloriously neon-soaked colors play a part in it.
FO: Our influences come from a ton of manga, obviously. Not just Dragon Ball, but also One Punch Man, Akira, and more—I know Aubrey is a big Devilman and Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure fan. But since we aren’t doing a manga pastiche, No One Left to Fight is the result of taking those influences and expressing them in the American comics “language.” This synthesis of our wide-ranging influences is a huge part of what makes the book feel so unique, big, real and lived-in.
The colors are always one of the first things people mention after seeing No One Left to Fight, which is just the way I wanted it! Manga is typically black and white, obviously, so not only is our eye-searing palette another way of doing something beyond just “American manga” but it’s a way to recreate the freshness and unpredictability that someone from a different comics tradition experiences digging into manga and anime.
What has your collaboration with letterer Taylor Esposito entailed? What did you want to make sure was conveyed in the lettering?
FO: Really similar to working with Aubrey! It’s been a constant back-and-forth of ideas, with Taylor building off what we’ve created, and us creating specifically with him in mind. It was important to us that Taylor be more than just a hired-gun—we wanted him to bring his take, personality, and skills to the project. He’s doing all that and more!
AS: Taylor is one of my favorite letterers working today—maybe even of all time—and it all comes down to the fact that when working on a book he never just goes on auto-pilot. Everything he does is a conscious choice meant to elevate the material, which, to my mind, is the sign of a truly great artist. Just like how Fico and I considered every character design, background, story element, or stick of dialogue, Taylor makes sure that every balloon placement, sound effect, or special balloon treatment works toward the end goal of the story we’re all telling together. I trust Taylor’s lettering judgment implicitly, and it’s gotten to the point where I’ll even just say in the script, “Gimme some Taylor-Magic on this one.” And not surprisingly… he delivers every time.
9. What are your ultimate ambitions for ‘No One Left to Fight’? What do you want readers to take with them when they finally set this series down?
FO: To enjoy it, obviously! And also to experience the feeling I had when watching or reading Dragon Ball for the first time. But our real wish is that people connect with the characters enough that they clamor for more. We have so many ideas and characters to explore with No One Left to Fight. Issue #1 isn’t even out but we’ve already started making plans for more, sowing the seeds of future stories in this one!
AS: This might sound flippant, but I honestly don’t care what exactly people get from No One Left to Fight. In fact, seeing what people pick up from it—whether pals that I let read it early, professional colleagues, reviewers, whip-smart interviewers like yourself—has been a really exciting, fascinating, rewarding experience. Fico and I put a lot of ourselves in every character, so there’s a wealth of heavy emotional stuff going on inside each of their heads. That means it’s less vital that people latch onto any specific character, emotional arc, or theme, and more important that they find the series worth ruminating over, worth exploring, and yeah, like Fico said: Worth returning to. We’re dying to do more.
Comics is all about giving people enough information in the panels that they can fill in the gutters themselves. And with No One Left to Fight, we’ve incorporated that logic into our larger approach. Finding out how people choose to fill in those blanks is one of the things I’m most excited about.
10. Who wins in a fight: Goku or anxiety?
AS: GOKU DOESN’T LOSE. EVER.
FO: Hah! I think I’d actually give the edge to anxiety. These days I worry that Goku might have a harder time getting people to drop their smartphones and raise their hands for a Spirit Bomb!
‘No One Left to Fight’ #1 hits stores with a vengeance July 3. You can read our review now.
Check out this 3-page preview of ‘No One Left to Fight’ #1, courtesy of Dark Horse Comics!
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