Ultraman Vol. 1 Review
I never got the chance to watch the old Ultraman TV series, but the character always looked cool to me. A guy in a badass robotic suit who can grow to the size of a skyscraper, and battles kaiju aliens like Godzilla – what’s not to like? When I saw some of the incredible artwork from Viz Media’s manga reboot, I knew I just had to check it out. Thankfully, my instincts were correct. Ultraman Vol. 1: This Is The Beginning of a New Age is a fantastic reintroduction of the classic character, packed to the brim with great writing and gorgeous artwork.
If, like me, you’re coming into Ultraman Vol. 1 with no knowledge of the hero’s past, fear not – this new book does a great job of catching readers up on the basics of the story. Ultraman #1 begins with a young boy named Shinjiro learning about the history of the famed hero at the Giant of Light Memorial Museum. Shinjiro is told about how a being known as the Giant of Light came to Earth and merged with a human, battling alien invaders for years to protect the planet. Once the alien threat subsided, the Giant of Light returned to his home in space, leaving the earthling with no recollection of the merging.
While Shinjiro’s father chats with some of his coworkers from the Science Special Search Party, the young boy runs off to look at some of the miniature displays. It isn’t long before he excitedly leans over a railing and falls from an extreme height, landing hard on the floor below as everyone looks on in shock. Miraculously, Shinjiro not only survives, but isn’t even injured. We discover that Shin Hayata knows that there is something different about his son, and he soon confesses to his friend and fellow SSSP member Chief Ide that he possesses his own set of unexplainable powers. Shin can’t recall anything from the time that Ultraman was on Earth, and Chief Ide soon helps him come to the realization that he himself was Ultraman, and has passed down the “Ultraman Factor” to his son.
The story of Ultraman #1 jumps forward 12 years to when Shinjiro is in high school, trying to fit in and impress girls. He knows he has powers but hides this fact from everyone, though he almost blows his cover when he accidentally breaks the leg of a bully who is harassing a girl he likes – just by casually blocking a kick. The girl runs off in fear, and Shinjiro tries to blow off some steam on the rooftops. It isn’t long before he’s attacked by an alien life form, who knows Shinjiro’s secret and is intent on killing him and his father.
The artwork and writing in Ultraman #1 are both fantastic. All of the art is cleanly drawn and incredibly detailed, and even when the action gets a bit crazy it’s easy to understand what’s going on. I also need to mention that the new suit design for Ultraman is super badass – it reminds me of the Arkham Knight suit in the new Batman video game, and maybe a bit of Isaac Clarke’s Dead Space suit. There isn’t a whole lot of story in this first volume, but what’s here is intriguing. The final chapter was especially great, and the last pages end Ultraman #1 with a real cliffhanger. Suffice it to say that I’m very interested to read the second volume.
Upon finishing Ultraman #1, I’ve come away with the feeling that this is the closest thing I’ve seen to an American superhero in manga form. I got almost an Iron Man vibe from the Ultraman scenes, but Shinjiro feels more like Peter Parker to me. The story is fun, and does a good job of introducing readers to the character of Ultraman and getting us excited for the follow-up. I can’t wait to read the next adventures of Shinjiro and the SSSP.