Ultraman was an iconic live-action superhero TV show from Japan that now lives again at Marvel. Writer Kyle Higgins, who turned BOOM! Studios' Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers into a bigger hit than anyone could have foreseen, joins with co-writer Mat Groom and artist Francesco Manna, colorist Espen Grundetjern, and letterer VC's Ariana Maher to relaunch this Kaiju-fighting icon. But does Ultraman: The Rise of Ultraman #1 work for the uninitiated?
The "Rise of" portion in Ultraman: The Rise of Ultraman's title suggests that this is an origin story, but it's still surprising how long it takes for things to get going. The inciting incident of lead character (kinda) Shin's transformation into Ultraman happens on the last page of the main story. This final scene is a visually interesting if generic, scene that seems to set up the story most readers like thought they'd get with this issue. Unfortunately, everything that came before it the epitome of dull. The main focus is on Cadet Fugi, who works at the Japanese Headquarters of the United Science Patrol. With the exception of a quick Kaiju fight during her workday, calling the comic a workplace drama would assume there's any drama at all. Fugi takes a taxi to work, shows up, fights a Kaiju, has dinner with Shin, and then they drive off to the scene referenced earlier. Every character speaks in purely workplace exposition, showing no sense of self or anything beyond being a vehicle for a plot that has not yet shown itself. Higgins and Groom's script for Ultraman: Rise of the Ultraman, unfortunately, should have started on the last few pages, as everything before that scene does nothing to allow readers to invest in the characters, story, or world.
The artwork from Manna and Grundetjern does the heavy lifting, with expressive characters and beautifully designed sci-fi action in the final scene. The bonus stories illustrated by Michael Cho and Gurihiru are creative. Still, with the weakness of the central narrative, there's not much these quirky bonuses can do to enhance this oddly paced revival.