Ultramega Vol. 1, a gorgeous and horrifying new take on the Kaiju genre, is packed with bold ideas, hideous gore, and incredible action.
Between classics like Godzilla and new stories like Kaiju score, the genres Tokusatsu and Kaiju are as popular as ever. Audiences all over the world are enchanted and delighted by the gigantic monsters and the heroes who try to fight them. Considering the sheer volume of these types of stories, it’s hard to imagine an entirely original take on Kaiju’s concept, but author and artist James Harren has done it in his series. Ultramega, published by Image Comics. The first volume of the series takes readers on a mad dash full of gruesome monsters and spectacular battles.
Ultramega Flight. 1 explores a world ravaged by a contagious plague of Kaiju. Countless numbers of people are throwing time bombs, just waiting to transform into gigantic mutant creatures. As the insidious disease continues to spread, humanity’s only hope are three protectors who become giant Ultramegas whenever they come into contact with people infected with Kaiju’s disease. Jason, the last active Ultramega, struggles to juggle his family responsibilities with monster-fighting obligations until one particularly brutal battle changes his life and everyone else’s forever. Years later, his son Noah struggles to build a life for himself in a world marred by his father’s legendary fights and a new generation of monsters.
Harren has built a truly fascinating world built around the often overlooked consequences of Kaiju. Readers have a seamless vision of a city trapped in a state of constant upheaval. Large-scale destruction is a constant possibility, and the blood of giants floods the streets. Kaiju cults emerge and hordes of potentially infected people are forced to leave the city. Ultramega focuses on the impacts of monsters just as much as the monsters themselves, whose mysterious origins take the story into space to establish a fascinating mythology. Between all the action and world-building, Harren still finds time to develop an intriguing character cast. Noah is particularly compelling, as his almost archetypal ardor is counterbalanced by his trauma.
As good as Harren’s writing is, his art steals the show. Each monster is lovingly designed and utterly unsettling. Harren seems to revel in bringing disturbing creatures to life. The carefully constructed figures contrast with the frantic movement lines and wild ink splashes that seem to represent blood, debris, and energy all at once. City-wide scenes of destruction are also influenced by Katsuhiro Otomo Akira and that of Paul Pope Fight boy. By incorporating visual elements from American manga, anime, and comics, Harren assembles a visual feast where each page on its own is a work of art. Dave Stewart’s colors complement the chaotic art perfectly. Bright, violent colors light up the fight scenes and fade into darker hues to represent the oppressed city grappling with the aftermath of violence.
Despite the intense subject matter, Harren still finds time to incorporate visual humor into Ultramega Volume 1. Even some of the violence has dark gallows humor in it: a sort of monstrous slapstick that helps the overall tone of the comic book to remain fun and entertaining despite the dark nature of the plot. At one point, Jason’s head remains quite large even after his body has grown to normal human size. This ridiculous image recognizes the over-the-top nature of the comic book as a whole and invites audiences to have a good time with it. After all, Harren seems to be having fun. Why not the reader?
Ultramega Flight. 1 ends with a shocking twist that seems to promise that even more brutal and beautiful things are on the way in the Ultramega universe. This first volume contains epic fights, great characters, and a truly crazy world that will have your head scratching, laughing, and gasping in horror all at the same time. Harren’s work is impeccable and, together with Dave Stewart, he has created an utterly incredible comic book.
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