Believe it or not, Ultraman is a bigger thing right now in Japan than Godzilla. We just had a film released last year and on top of that the US got an official release of Ultra7. This guy predates Power Rangers by over 20 years, first making landfall in 1966. Since then, the 'Light Giant' has had over 20 TV shows and over 20 movies! Surprisingly, as far as I can tell, there haven't really been much manga. Godzilla has quite a few, but I've never seen an Ultra one. Recently, there has been a brand new manga that is, get this, set after the Original Series. There's not too much action in Chapter One, rather it sets up a few things. It's definitely something fans (especially those whom have seen the Original Series in its entirety) can enjoy.
Set 20 years after Zetton was destroyed and Utraman left for Nebula M78, the story follows Shin, son of Hayata. (The human host of the original Ultraman.) This kid likes the hero a lot, even having a little action figure of him. He's a pretty happy kid, then one day he falls off a platform. But get this...he isn't even scratched. Turns out this kid has the Ultraman Gene, and he's going to need it since an alien invasion is on the rise. First off, I think it's great that the story builds off of the Original Series. It could have gone the route of making a whole new Ultraman with whole new characters, that's the route people would expect it to take. But nope, here we have Hayata, Ito, references to the past...all that good stuff. This first chapter mainly focuses on Hayata and Ito. It has some interesting stuff, we see that Hayata despite no longer being a host for Ultraman has the gene. And he's passed it down to his son. Ito is also aware that he was the Ultraman, and he reveals the others did too, which is quite intriguing. But the action really heats up when Ito shows him a clip of something destroying an aircraft.
This first chapter doesn't try to be epic with big explosions. It sets up the story, showing us what the Ultraman gene is and slowly introducing us to Shin. It also does a nice, subtle job of establishing the incoming threat. Non-watchers of the Original Series won't enjoy it as much, cause there are plenty of references, especially to that last episode (It's nice to see how well this manga connects to it, from the Zetton vs. Ultraman display to a photograph of the whole Science Patrol, there's a lot to like.) The art is pretty standard. I won't call it average because it hasn't gotten a chance to show how it can do Ultraman and fights. I will say that the opening colorized pages were truly cool. The new Ultraman design is what you get when you combine the classic look with a Gundam and Iron Man. In short, it looks like a very high tech futuristic version. It may look a little too 'out there,' but I'm always open to new takes, it'll be interesting to see it in action. There's a 12 year time skip later. We see Shin as a teen now, fully aware of his powers. So far he isn't anything special, but we've only gotten a few pages of him, so I'll reserve judgment until I read a few more chapters.
Overall, the Ultraman manga is off to a pretty good start. I love how it's part of the Original Show's continuity, using its characters to build a story. I'm indifferent on Shin so far, we'll see how he does in the next few chapters. We also get the hint that an alien invasion is on the way. Ultra fans, especially watchers of the 66 series, should check this out.