Ultramega Vol. 1 Dazzles With Stunning Wit & Style

Between classics like Godzilla and new stories like Kaiju Score, the Tokusatsu and Kaiju genres are as popular as ever. Audiences around the globe are enchanted and delighted by gigantic monsters and the heroes who try to fight them. Considering the sheer volume of these types of stories, it is difficult to imagine an entirely original take on the Kaiju concept, but author and artist James Harren has done just that in his series Ultramega, published by Image Comics. The first volume of the series takes readers on a wild ride full of horrifying monsters and spectacular battles.

Ultramega Vol. 1 explores a world ravaged by a contagious Kaiju plague. A countless number of people are ticking 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 the Kaiju sickness. Jason, the last active Ultramega, struggles to juggle his family responsibilities with his monster-fighting obligations until a particularly brutal battle changes his and everyone else's life 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.

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Harren has built a truly fascinating world built around the often-ignored consequences of the Kaiju. Readers are given an unflinching view of a city trapped in a constant state of upheaval. Large-scale destruction is a constant possibility and giants' blood floods the streets. Kaiju cults emerge and hordes of potentially infected people are forced out of the city. Ultramega focuses on the impacts of the monsters just as much as it does the monsters themselves, whose mysterious origins take the story into outer space to establish a fascinating mythology. Between all of the action and world-building, Harren still finds time to develop an intriguing cast of characters. Noah is particularly compelling, as his almost archetypal hot-headedness is balanced out 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 characters stand in contrast to frenetic motion lines and wild splashes of ink that seem to represent blood, debris and energy all at once. The scenes of city-wide destruction feel equally influenced by Katsuhiro Otomo's Akira  and Paul Pope's Battling Boy. By incorporating visual elements from manga, anime and American comics, Harren assembles a visual feast where every single page stands alone as a work of art. Dave Stewart's colors complement the chaotic art perfectly. Bright, violent colors illuminate the fight scenes and fade into dimmer hues to represent the downtrodden city struggling in the aftermath of the violence.

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Despite the intense subject matter, Harren still finds time to incorporate visual humor into Ultramega Volume 1. Even some of the violence contains bleak gallows humor: a monstrous sort of slapstick that helps the overall tone of the comic stay fun and entertaining in spite of the bleak nature of the plot. At one point, Jason's head remains quite large even after his body has shrunk down to normal human size. This ridiculous image acknowledges the over-the-top nature of the comic as a whole and invites the audience to have a good time with it. After all, Harren seems to be having fun. Why shouldn't the reader?

Ultramega Vol. 1 ends with a shocking twist that seems to promise even more brutal and beautiful things are on their way in the Ultramega universe. This first volume contains epic fights, great characters and a truly insane world that will have readers scratching their heads, chuckling and gasping in horror all at once. Harren's work is impeccable and, together with Dave Stewart, he's created a comic that is utterly amazing.

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Dustin Holland (185 Articles Published)

Dustin Holland is an avid reader, writer, and art-lover living in Colorado. He has spent most of his life reading, selling, and talking about books and comics. Dustin is also an aspiring cartoonist whose work can be found at Gorchverse. Follow him on Twitter at @DustinHolland26.

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