Marvel Comics is dipping its toes into new properties more and more. They of course took on Star Wars a few short years ago, they are preparing a jump to Predator and Alien properties, and this week they’re diving headfirst into Ultraman. It’s a series that’s quite popular, and one I actually got addicted to when in middle school, but I’ve honestly not heard it in the news much for quite some time. Marvel is aiming to correct that with this new series, which offers an impressive cover by comics legend Alex Ross (and a funny photo cover too), an interesting new world to explore, and a reluctant hero we can all get behind.
This book has two creative teams: the main story by Kyle Higgins and Mat Groom with art by Francesco Manna and colors by Espen Grundetjern, hilarious comic strip style stories by Higgins and Groom with art by Gurihiru, and an interesting extra-tale showing a flashback to the 1950s France by Higgins, Groom, and art by Michael Cho. It’s a thick book with a lot of content that’s splashy and matches the larger-than-life nature of Ultraman himself. I was satisfied with how much story is there is the first issue, and by the time I put this book down I was ready to explore the world even further. It also ends with a great “Things to Come” double-page splash by Ed McGuinness and Espen Grundetjern not to be missed.
Starting with the main story, Higgins and Groom do a good job establishing the weirdness of this world starting with a flashback to 1966 (seen in the preview). This sets off alarms of what could be going on and establishes the weird sci-fi nature of the story. Soon after, we’re dropped into the 2020 Japan and are introduced to the main characters. The story unveils an organization that’s highly secretive, a young girl who is rising up their ranks, her friend who has good intentions but can’t seem to make it, and a Captain who busts their balls. These characters are young, likable, and easy to root for. There’s a dynamic at work that will likely shift in the next issue, further drawing you into the story.
The creative team does a great job establishing the world and its many secrets thanks to redacted elements revealed via a clever caption box with white out covering key words. As the reader is held in the dark so are the main characters, further drawing your interest and making you want to learn more. Ultraman himself is a mystery on top of all the mysteries which should be fun to untangle and understand. By the end of the issue there’s a great hook melding mystery, Ultraman, and all the key characters, too.
Following the main story are the comic strips, which reveal a bit more about the secret organization and start to shed light on the nature of its work. Told via helpful how-to guides with a grade school approach, these clips are fun and bubbly. They reminded me of the Captain America PSA clip in Spider-Man: Homecoming, and they add a sense of humor to the book.
The book wraps up with the Michael Cho short, which expands on the universe a bit more in an unexpected way. It’s clear Higgins and Groom have done a lot of work to establish this world and I wouldn’t be surprised if they have 20 times more story built out never to be seen unless this series goes to 100 issues.
One downside to this book is it’s definitely holding its cards close to the vest with Ultraman himself. That’s what cliffhangers are for though, to get fans eager to read the next issue, which it does. That said, I was surprised how little Ultraman there is in the book.
I was hesitant in reading this work since a big publisher like Marvel Comics taking on yet another property is an easy cash-grab if done wrong, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. The creative team has done the homework, clearly spent a lot of time and energy getting this world right, and have started things off strong. The Rise of Ultraman is an exciting new sci-fi action story well worth rising up and reading.