WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for One-Punch Man Vol. 22, by ONE, Yusuke Murata, John Werry and James Gaubatz, on sale now from Viz Media.
One-Punch Man Vol. 22 opens with Child Emperor in his Brave Giant robot armor facing off against Resurrected Phoenix Man. And due to the limitations of his armor, the young Class-S hero has to work quickly to defeat his opponent and save Waganma, the son of a major Hero's Association sponsor. However, Resurrected Phoenix Man soon brings Child Emperor's consciousness to the "Phoenix Space," which he describes as "a spiritual space found only inside my costume." From there, Resurrected Phoenix Man explains that costumes are deeply connected to the spiritual world.
While inside the Phoenix Space, the monster tries to recruit Child Emperor to his side. "Of all the heroes, you hold the most darkness," Resurrected Phoenix Man explains. At first, the Class-S hero identifies what Resurrected Phoenix Man is saying as a trick, mentioning that that pretty much every other hero in his rank is darker than him. Soon, though, Child Emperor realizes that Resurrected Phoenix Man is also projecting onto the young hero.
As the conversation continues, Resurrected Phoenix Man starts to monsterize Child Emperor, saying that together they can unite their powers and forces in harmony to become the most powerful beings in existence. But the hero soon strikes back and escapes the Phoenix Space. Back in the real world, the two engage in a fierce battle. During the fight, Child Emperor is forced to cool Brave Giant off in sewer water.
With all of that going on, Saitama works his way through the Monster Association HQ, which is filled with bodies due to the ongoing brawl. However, as he's walking, the battle between Resurrected Phoenix Man and Child Emperor ends up creating a wave that sweeps Saitama away. Child Emperor -- whose time is quickly running out -- tries to rescue the hero, but he's interrupted by Resurrected Phoenix Man in his Phoenix Penguin Mode.
Resurrected Phoenix Man then pulls Child Emperor back into Phoenix Space, where he once again tries to convince the Class-S hero to join him. This time, though, the monster takes a different approach and shows Child Emperor what he calls "the secret foul deeds of the Hero Association." While Child Emperor believes that Resurrected Phoenix Man is just launching a psychological attack, the monster then launches into his backstory about having been a mascot in the past. He became combined with his donkan bird costume.
Due to the respect that Resurrected Phoenix Man shows Child Emperor, the Class-S hero starts to really consider the offer. Saitama, though, soon punches his way into Phoenix Space. One-Punch Man then threatens Resurrected Phoenix Man, telling him not to drag a kid into his shenanigans. This causes Resurrected Phoenix Man to exit Phoenix Space. Child Emperor then receives a call from Zombieman, who notes just how useful the young hero is.
After that call ends, Resurrected Phoenix Man turns a bunch of nearby dead monsters into zombies and gives Child Emperor one last chance to join him. However, Saitama destroys the zombies and Child Emperor rejects his chance at monsterization. Child Emperor then punches Brave Giant up to maximum power and wrecks the remaining zombies, leaving him costume-less to battle Resurrected Phoenix Man.
And while Child Emperor seems doomed, the young hero proves that he's always got a trick up his sleeve and deploys his tickle bugs against Resurrected Phoenix Man. The villain then laughs so much that he explodes and downgrades to Chick Man, whose threat level is "Less Than Wolf."
Saitama and Child Emperor talk a bit, but they're soon interrupted Hellfire Flame and Gale Wind. The villains try and kidnap Child Emperor to serve as bait for Flashy Flash, but Saitama knocks them both out with one punch and prepares to collect the bounty on them. Underdog Man then appears and takes Child Emperor, Waganma and Saitama to the surface, with One-Punch Man killing a monster on their way up.
From there, the action moves back in time to Zombieman, who wrecks a ton of monsters. Soon, he comes across Vampire and the two begin fighting. While Vampire proves faster (Zombieman does not, after all, consider himself a fighter), the Class-S hero doesn't go down easily, even getting up after being bit.
Over the course of the battle, Zombieman gets hit with attack after attack over and over again as Vampire feeds on the monsters watching them for more power. Zombieman then prepares for a long battle and, thirty minutes later, he's beaten Vampire into a fine sludge. The Class-S hero then bars the door and destroys the remaining monsters. After this, Zombieman kills some monster mechs and contacts Child Emperor, bringing One-Punch Man Vol. 22's story back to its present.
One-Punch Man Vol. 22 then moves to the other heroes battling in the Monster Association HQ. Atomic Samurai's disciples face down the mercenaries that Narinki hired to rescue Waganma. They were, previously, turned into slaves of Do-S. While the swordsmen at first stand toe-to-toe with the mercenaries, they look to be in trouble, as Narinki's soldiers have powerful equipment and superior numbers. Then, Do-S lashes out with her whip to take control of her opponents.
As the whip goes towards Bushidrill, Amai Mask appears and grabs the weapon out of mid-air. Amai Mask then says he'll take things from there and faces off against Do-S and the remaining mercenaries. While Do-S offers to free the mercenaries if Amai Mask joins her, he rejects her offer. But before Amai Mask can murder the mercenaries, the swordsmen interfere. Amai Mask then threatens to report them for disobeying his orders.
Still, the mercenaries wake up and are no longer under Amai Mask's control. However, Do-S gets a sneaky blow on Amai Mask that damages his face and eye. "You're not human," she says as she realizes that the damage doesn't take him down. He then smashes her head and the damage on his face disappears entirely. With the battle done, Amai Mask tasks the swordsmen with bringing the mercenaries back to the surface.
One-Punch Man Vol. 22 ends with a bonus story called "Coffee." In the story, Zombieman is getting coffee when he hears about "a monster using explosives." All Zombieman requests for support is boxer underwear in case he ends up naked by the end of the fight. And that's where One-Punch Man Vol. 22 ends.
One-Punch Man Vol. 22 is available in English now from Viz Media. Vol. 23 will release on Oct. 5.