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‘The Rise of Ultraman #2’ (review)

Written by Mat Groom, Kyle Higgins
Art by Francesco Manna
Published by Marvel Comics

 

In most Japanese tokusatsu television shows, including the Ultra series, the origin story is usually simple enough to breeze through in the first episode, getting to a monster fight by the end of that debut installment.

It’s a little hard for me, then, to square just how much writers Kyle Higgins and Mat Groom choose to decompress and complicate that story in The Rise of Ultraman, Marvel’s re-imagining of the Ultraman story.

Picking up directly from the previous issue, aspiring United Science Patrol cadet Shin Hayata is trapped inside a giant orb after firing on, then coming into contact with the alien inside it. That alien presents itself to Hayata as a being from a race that evolved beyond fear, keeping them safe from kaiju attack.

Furthermore, he and Hayata are dying, and must determine whether to merge together as one being, and who will be in control.

Meanwhile, Hayata’s best friend, USP rookie Kiki Fuji, and her commander, Captain Muramatsu, decide the best way to help Hayata is to learn the truth about what happened in 1967, when USP pilot Dan Moroboshi was believed killed by a similar alien. Their search, however, leads to evidence of a USP cover-up. That puts them on the agency’s hit list.

What we don’t get in this issue is significant kaiju-fighting action, outside of a few brief flashbacks. Rather, Higgins and Groom play up the drama and conflict between Ultra and man. That’s fine, but the cover-up plot feels a little undercooked and unnecessary, as we don’t really know enough about this version of the organization yet to be invested in its inner workings.

Francesco Manna and Espen Grundetjern’s art is pretty spectacular though, especially Manna’s rendering of Ultraman. Grunderjern’s colors continue to add to the action even further, distinguishing between realms, visions and memories to add an otherworldly quality to Manna’s pencils.

There’s promise in the union of Hayata and Ultraman, but I’m not completely sold yet on Higgins and Groom’s vision. Next issue should offer more Ultra-action, but we’ll see if it’s enough to satisfy both new Ultra-fans and die-hards.

 

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