The “Ultraman” series is alive and well in Japan. The west has finally gotten plenty of “Ultraman” shows on blu-ray and even some statues. Marvel decided to join in and create an “Ultraman” story of their own called “The Rise of Ultraman” written by Kyle Higgins and Mat Groom with artist Francesco Manna that is now in trade paperback.
This is a retelling of the original “Ultraman” show. Shin Hayata has been trying to join the “United Science Patrol” for years, even following his “USP” friend KIKI. One day while on mission Shin and Kiki find a being of light similar to the one that killed Dan Moroboshi in the 60s. Shin and the being of light join forces and become Ultraman.
This story is a little darker than many ‘Ultraman” shows. Yes, “Ultraman” shows have some serious elements but the shows are mostly light-hearted fun with kaiju battles thrown in. It seems a little weird to not have any humor in anything resembling “Ultraman.” Even “Orb” which had one of the most serious “Ultraman” protagonists with one of the darkest backstories still had a few funny moments (his obsession with ice cream for one.) Still, this may have been the writer’s intent maybe because some western comic readers may be put off by slapstick.
Shin is an OK character. Not much can be said about him since he’s, sadly, boring. His entire character is trying to figure out what the “USP” is up o and join them. Kiki is a lot more interesting than Shin. There’s more to her backstory than Shin’s and her motivations are more interesting.
If you’re looking for lots of kaiju battles, you will be disappointed. There’s only one kaiju battle and it’s in the fifth issue. The third issue has Shin transformed and fighting a kaiju, but they’re human-sized. The entire draw of “Ultraman” is watching a skyscraper-sized hero fighting skyscraper-sized monsters. Even the one we get is over quickly and forgettable.
The art is nice. Mana does get the look of not just the original “Ultraman” down, but also Ultraseven, Taro, 80 and Ace. The kaiju are drawn scarier than on the show but at least they are well-drawn. The human characters are fine too but the ultras and kaiju outclass them.
The TPB has some neat extras. These include the covers for the comics, and “Ultra Q” comic (more comic book action and less science fiction mystery like the original show) and some history on “Ultraman” creator Eiji Tsuburaya.
Marvels’ attempt at an “Ultraman” comic is decent enough but some “Ultraman” purists will not like it so much since it trays way too far from the formula. The artwork has some highs and the extras make this worth collecting for those who want everything “Ultraman.”