I really doubt this comic needs any introduction from me at all, since anyone who reads manga has a high probability of know about this series already. It is the most popular and best selling manga of all time in Japan, and it's demographic is surprisingly all inclusive which is an incredible achievement for a comic book. Obviously, it's one of my favorite comics as well. If you haven't read it, here's a brief primer on it and before we even begin I'll just say that every comic fan owes it to themselves to give this series a try.
ONE PIECE By Eiichiro Oda
WHAT IS IT?
One Piece follows the adventures of the good natured pirate, Monkey D. Luffy, as he sets off toward his goal of becoming the Pirate King by finding the legendary treasure, the One Piece. As he travels, he makes new friends and members for his crew, The Straw Hat Pirates, and also becomes involved in or serves as the catalyst for historic events, earning The Straw Hats great notoriety.
WHAT MAKES IT GOOD?
One Piece is an epic series set in a fully fleshed out fictional world with many factions and powers established that Luffy and his crew run into through out their journey. Eiichiro Oda has done a great job giving the world of One Piece a feeling of great breadth and that while the Straw Hats are our window into the world, much more is happening while they are on their adventures. It is also exciting to see these powers get shaken up as Luffy grows more and more powerful and advances towards his goal, and like any good tale of intrigue, we are also shown the conspiracies that threaten to entangle our protagonists.
Aside from having a great setting, another One Piece's strongest aspects is it's characters. Luffy and his crew each bring their own unique personality to the group. Zoro the swordsman is the somber warrior of the group, but has a terrible sense of direction; Chopper the doctor is a reindeer-person, Nami the navigator is a penny pincher, Sanji the cook is a womanizer, Robin the archaeologist has a quirky sense of humor, Usopp the sniper is a liar with a long nose, Franky the shipwright is a cyborg with lasers, and Brook the musician is a perverted skeleton. Luffy himself is somewhat dimwitted and reckless, always willing to do the unexpected in his endless quest for adventure. One of the most enjoyable things about Luffy's crew is the camaraderie they all share- the Straw Hats serve as a family for each other and this bond has become the cornerstone of the story. Every member has a dark past filled with loss and regret, but find the strength to overcome their personal demons with the help of their friends.
And it's not just the heroes who get to have wide ranging story arcs; unlike many other comics, One Piece is famous for featuring each story arc's villains or supporting cast in their own short story, which is illustrated across several chapter covers. This trait ties back into Oda's great sense for world building, as it shows that characters who aren't the immediate focus of the story are still off living their own lives even after defeat or run-ins with our heroes. These characters often show up at later points in the story, either as a continued threat to the Straw Hats or as allies- and the best part is that even after being beaten, a strong villain or friend is still just as strong when Luffy meets them again.
Being a pirate adventure, One Piece is filled with fights between Luffy and those that stand in his way on the path to becoming the Pirate King. These threats may be from rival pirate crews, the world's law enforcement authority known as the Marines, or even the all powerful World Government. Battles in One Piece often include the use of super powers, from Luffy's Gum Gum stretching abilities to primary antagonist Blackbeard's ability to become darkness itself, but what's great is even characters who do not have a super power have a way fight back either through sheer skill and strength, or an even greater mental power called "Haki." Because of the breadth of fighting styles in One Piece, each battle brings something new to the table.
Eiichiro Oda renders One Piece in his own distinct style, which is a technique unlike anything else out there. Some may find it is an acquired taste, as Oda's sense of anatomy is highly stylized, but once you've acclimatized to it Oda's art is very aesthetically pleasing. His characters come in a large variety of shapes and sizes and even feature some pretty outlandish design motifs, but somehow Oda makes them work in a cohesive fashion. Oda's non-short story covers are also some of the most imaginative, vibrant pieces of comic art around and show the depth of his creativity and what makes One Piece so special.
WHERE CAN YOU GET IT?
One Piece is fairly easy to find since it has been translated into English for sometime. Collected volumes can be found here at Amazon or here from Barnes & Noble. If you are interested in keeping up with weekly releases, Viz Media publishes chapters concurrently with the Japanese release through their Shonen Jump Alpha subscriptions.
As I said at the beginning of this post, if you are at all a fan of graphic novels or comics, you really owe it to yourself to give One Piece a try if you haven't already. The comic is currently at 704 chapters and counting, with the end still off on the distant horizon, which may be intimidating for anyone starting from chapter 1. But I can say that if you are willing to stick with the comic, I don't doubt that it'll end up on your favorite list of comics, too. There's a reason why everyone in Japan follows the exploits of the Straw Hat Pirates.