It was a big day when Marvel Comics gained the rights to publish Ultraman comics as it meant an iconic character was getting primo placement in the market. It also meant a nostalgic character was getting a new lease on life. The first volume perfectly introduced the character and a world that had successfully kept kaiju at bay until a new hero was needed. In the second volume, Kyle Higgins, Mat Groom, and Francesco Manna continue to build out the world around the monster-fighter making for an even richer world to explore going forward.
Directly carrying the story forward from volume 1, the creative team reveals there are more organizations in the world to be wary of while also building out Shin Hayata’s character. Collected here are all five issues from the miniseries and it kicks off by juggling a few different plots effectively, setting up a new focus for the series. It’s a continuation to be sure, though, as Shin 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. It’s also a decent reflection of our own as the world believably thinks monsters are made up by the government to control the people. The concept is a little hard to believe — if a giant monster tore a city down you’d probably have physical proof of it — but it makes the world a touch more relatable.
Elements include new monster types like robots and mecha monsters, as well as a shady genius who once worked for the USP. A strength of this volume is devoting time specifically to Shin’s personal life as we learn more about his father and a brother that passed away. Meanwhile, the Ultraman alien is seeking a brother, adding a new mystery to resolve going forward.
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 all the emotions of Shin, from shocked, to discouraged, to angry — you will feel what he feels throughout the narrative. The book wraps up with an action sequence that involves not one but two kaiju and Manna pulls it off well.
A book like Ultraman may seem like an action-heavy title, but it’s actually dialogue-driven. It’s a tad slow in its approach, even with a monster vs. Ultraman scene popping up here or there. You’ll find characters in rooms talking back and forth for long stretches, which certainly is important to the plot and character development. It just feels not quite the right fit for a title about a superhero who can become a giant.
The book is padded out a bit with backups as well with Higgins and Groom continuing a series of comic strip tales about USP protocol. It’s a cute carry-over from the first volume that adds a bit of comedic world building. “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 sci-fi a space adventure story and not just a kaiju one.
Ultraman Vol. 2: The Trials of Ultraman is doing a lot to build out its characters and the larger world. It may feel a bit light on the action, especially for a book about Ultraman, but it’s well written and drawn from cover to cover. One might desire more fights and a faster pace, but it’s laying a lot of the groundwork to ensure Ultraman continues on for a long time to come.
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