Marvel Comics came out swinging with The Rise of Ultraman, introducing readers to a brand new world and a new kind of hero for the publisher. The series was a success and is getting a follow-up this week with The Trials of Ultraman. Kyle Higgins, Mat Groom, and Francesco Manna are back for this second miniseries which is a direct continuation of The Rise of Ultraman. This miniseries launch does well to capture how the world is different and how Shin is still working out how his abilities work as Ultraman.
This issue juggles a few different plots effectively, setting up a new focus for the series which gives it a new feel. It’s a continuation to be sure, though, as Shin Hayata is now fully merged with Ultraman and the once-secret monster-stopping organization known as the USP is out in the open and known by the world. They once kept the lid on the monsters escaping into our world, but now the literal lid that keeps them at bay has been released so it doesn’t blow completely. Due to the USP weapon of choice no longer working on monsters, Ultraman is the first line of defense against the beasts. The world is very different.
While it’s reminding us of these details, the issue opens with a new plot thread. It’s a mysterious scene that continues to add layers to the narrative. Meanwhile, new mysteries are hinted elsewhere and Shin must come to grips with his new responsibility as Ultraman. These elements are well told, with Shin’s personal life getting proper focus so that we can relate and connect to the character.
Art by Manna with colors by Espen Grundetjern continues to be strong, especially when size and scale are concerned. A giant hand bursting from the water cuts to Ultraman fighting to save some oil rig workers in expert page-turn fashion. Some of the action can look a touch too simplistic, especially compared to the more detailed and expressive scenes with Shin. Manna is quite good at capturing the emotional Shin, from shocked, to discouraged, and angry — you will feel what he feels throughout the narrative.
It’s a tad slow in its approach, even with a monster vs. Ultraman scene making this issue more of an appetizer than a full-fledged meal. Three backups pad out the page count a bit, with Higgins and Groom continuing a series of comic strip tales about USP protocol. The two that are here are similar to the previous series, and have a Half Life feel since they take a rather extraordinary organization and make them ordinary and boring for comedic relief. “From Rise to Fall” is another backup, also written by Higgins and Groom with art by Eduardo Ferigato and color artist Marcelo Costa. This is a curious tale that’ll likely pay off later and it serves as a reminder this is a space adventure story and not just a kaiju one. Compared to the first issue of the last series, these backups don’t add as much value to the $4.99 price tag.
The Trials of Ultraman #1 is setting up a different kind of story while reminding us of how we got here. For that, it works well as an introduction to the series and a setup issue. It does feel short, though, especially with the backup stories padding out the thickness of this book. It’s not so much a decompression problem since there are many plots set up or revisited, but simply not enough happens within each plot to totally hook the reader. Fans of the original series will dig it, though, and it’s setting up Shin and Ultraman for all sorts of trials.
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