Last year, Marvel Comics released a 5-issue limited series in collaboration with Tsuburaya Productions titled The Rise of Ultraman. The series was met with praise for its thematically faithful but visually unique adaptation of the 1966 classic Japanese television show Ultraman and its follow-up series, and for being a great jumping-off point for brand new fans while housing secrets for long-time Ultraman lovers. The first two issues of the sequel series, The Trials of Ultraman, develop the enticing premise of the first, while significantly expanding the lore and world of this adaptation and constantly dropping Easter eggs and hints of major things to come.
The Trials of Ultraman #1 picks up where The Rise of Ultraman left off, with Shin Hayata adjusting to his new double life as Ultraman while balancing relationships with his friends and family. The images are brought to life by artist Francesco Manna and the bright colors (courtesy of Espen Grundetjern) capture the optimism and excitement of the original 1966 show.
Writers Kyle Higgins and Mat Groom waste no time introducing Shin’s newest set of trials as he attempts to reconcile his newfound identity as a giant, Kaiju-battling hero with smaller more human tests such as his relationship with his father. The Trials of Ultraman also furthers a few major plot points hinted at by its predecessor, including the mysterious goals of higher-ups in the organization that Shin joins known as the United Science Patrol (USP), and the story of Dan Moroboshi (a USP agent who went missing after an encounter with a different Ultra in 1966) whose name older fans of the franchise are sure to recognize.
The first issue of the series follows Shin’s life through a dynamic underwater Kaiju fight against Pestar who first appeared in Ultraman episode 13: “Oil S.O.S.”, as well as philosophical dialogues with the Ultra about the nature of the human race, as he grows accustomed to sharing his body with the mind of the alien Ultraman. He learns that public trust will be hard to earn firsthand through an intense and emotional confrontation with his father, where the two debate Ultraman’s true motives and efficacy. Shin’s father also criticizes Shin’s naivety, tendency to run towards danger, and history of questionable judgement.
Issue #2 picks up as Shin, his best friend Kiki Fuji, and his new USP leader Captain Muramatsu get word that Dan Moroboshi has been found and kidnapped by a group called the Joint Armed Disclosure Front. The JADF believe the USP is implicated in a conspiracy making them responsible for the creation of Kaiju. At first, it’s expected that Ultraman will simply come to the rescue. But, interestingly, the Ultra refuses to use his power against any people of Earth. Shin and Kiki must go on an undercover mission to rescue Dan, facing off against this new human threat that introduces a unique enemy to the world of Ultraman.
Writers Higgins and Groom here expertly mix the beloved Ultraman lore with classic Marvel Comics action. In a fast-paced sequence where Shin, while infiltrating an enemy base, is forced to quickly change form into a human-sized version of Ultraman to defensively protect his allies. However, Shin and the Ultra must control their power carefully, as to be sure not to harm anyone while keeping Kiki and Dan safe. The writers here are able to explore the more philosophical side of Ultraman, showing the Ultra’s dedication to human life and resolve not to be used as a weapon by Shin or the USP. The second issue ends on a shocking cliffhanger when a new type of enemy is suddenly revealed.
The Trials of Ultraman continues the storyline established by The Rise of Ultraman by adapting and streamlining the concepts of the Ultraman franchise to create a fantastic entry point for new readers. At the same time, it contains a multitude of Easter eggs that are sure to delight eagle-eyed fans. Within the first few pages of issue #1, the Kaiju Vasara, Depparas, and Vorkeller can be seen battling the USP throughout history, all of which debuted in the sixth Ultraman show, Ultraman Taro. In an exciting fight that begins on the next page, Ultraman can be seen using the Ultra Slash, one of his iconic classic attacks from the original show which focuses his energy into a small, precise light disk that can be thrown. Shin Hayata and the rest of the USP are given uniforms with the classic SSSP design from Ultraman, while Dan Moroboshi’s old USP uniform is identical to his Ultra Guard uniform from Ultraseven. Several more Kaiju from the original Ultraman such as Bullton and Hydra are featured in the mysterious backup story in the first issue, which hints at a larger history behind the decades-old Japanese organization Q that is sure to play a bigger role as the series continues.
Finally, Shin’s transformation into Ultraman is depicted in a gorgeous page with both Shin and Ultraman’s famous transformation poses, and the new threat revealed at the end of the second issue (which we won’t spoil here) is another nod to Ultraseven, although it is depicted slightly differently from its original counterpart.
The first two issues of The Trials of Ultraman are an action-packed punch and introduce new threats and mysteries while setting up an intriguing story hinting towards the introduction of other Ultra Heroes. To find out what happens to Shin, Kiki, and Dan next, be sure to grab The Trials of Ultraman #3, releasing digitally and in comic book stores on May 19, 2021—and stay tuned to Ultraman Galaxy.