Hooray! We're back! It was rough having the forum down through the release of two such amazing chapters.
I wouldn't say I'm here for the fights (it's absolutely a worldbuilding/long term narrative thing for me) but I'm really enjoying the clashes with Kaido. The artwork for all things to do with his big dragon body is incredibly impressive every time, and the sense of scale is really good. Not since Oars have we seen Luffy up against an enemy this much bigger and more monstrous than himself. It has a great sense of spectacle to it.
I like that Oda's taking the time to show there's multiple ways to take on the top tiers as well. Even though we know Luffy's going to be the last man standing, it's clear the battle's not just about who has the bigger haki dick. Throws and slams to rattle the brain, penetrating surgical attacks and sonic blasts are just as viable ways around Kaido's defences. It really goes a long way toward keeping the fights unpredictable and engaging.
For most of 1002, I had this creeping feeling of dread that the Supernovas were doing a little too well. Like with the Scabbards before them, the other shoe had to drop eventually. And that's just in their efforts against Kaido. The fact that Big Mom has been almost completely ignored by the young captains while they focus their damage output on Kaido definitely feels like it's going to bite them in the ass.
Wonder if we're gonna see that horn Zoro cut off again. Is it blocking the side path on the outside of the dome now? Did it fall into Wano? Are we even over Wano at all yet, or is it all sea down below? How fast is Onigashima moving anyway?
Chapter 1002 really feels like it could have benefited from the extra spread available when chapters were 19 pages long instead of 17. The amazing panel of Big Mom and Kaido watching on as the lightning falls and the big moment of Luffy enduring a Blast Breath through force of will alone are battling over some fairly limited pagespace. These kinds of panels need more room to breathe than they got here.
1003 delivers more breathtaking spreads - I love the one with the dragon twisters moving around Kaido's body - and an increase in tension as the Emperors start unleasing more and more devastating attacks while exhaustion mounts on the Supernovas. It wouldn't shock me if there's no one else (or close to no one else) left standing by the time Luffy recovers his Haki, leaving him alone to capitalise on the damage done so far and finish the fight.
The CP0 scene was a good, and likely necessary, recap for the rest of the battle. When you're dealing with a warzone filled with literally thousands of battling troops on each side it can be difficult to conceptualise casualty rates and how quick each force is being depleted without an excuse to just lay the numbers out directly. The comment about the officers being able to eliminate hundreds of soldiers at a time is a big part of why I think the Pirate Warriors series was a good choice for One Piece games. They don't nail every aspect of the series, and there's a few big flaws inherent to the Musuo framework, but they're a great fit for size of the fodder armies and the strength of the big name fighters in the manga currently.
The Yamato and Momo panel is the most interesting of the montage of in-progress fights. They're obviously still in the storeroom they were in a few chapters ago, but it looks like something's happening. Did someone find them? If so, who? There's not so many enemies left unaccounted for that I'd expect to worry Yamato.
(also, I really don't know where I stand on the pronoun/gender issue for Yamato anymore. The reinforcing of "Kaido's daughter" in the volume 98 cast page and the whole shojo magazine heroines spread (which I understand to be an official promo bit) are painting a picture of what Oda and his editorial staff have as canon, and we really don't know that much about how Yamato handles the dual identities of Yamato and Oden, due to them being introduced in the middle of a battle with much more pressing priorities than explaining what their whole deal is. I hope in the volume 99 SBS someone is able to ask directly what the hell is up with the mentions of Kaido's son before the big reveal if it's all getting turned around now.)
Next chapter is very likely the end of volume 99. Oda's going to have to go big for it not to be overshadowed by so many back to back action chapters so high in the holy shit factor. We'll see what happens. The new hybrid form and the potential damage it could do are a very exciting prospect.