Boom! Studios’ comic book series, Mech Cadet Yu is getting a lot of renewed attention this year. Early this month, the company announced the series was being adapted into a serial series for Netflix. Having originally debuted in print in 2017 through Boom! Studios, the property is expected to debut on Netflix Aug. 10 in a 10-episode limited run. The original comic book series is also available in three separate paperback volumes through Boom! Studios. Today, Boom! Studios has resurrected the original comic book series, so to speak, with the release of the original series’ first 12 issues in the form of the 322-page anthology, Mech Cadets: Book One. Retailing for $24.99, the collection is a wonderful presentation for a wide range of audiences who might have been otherwise unfamiliar with the title. The appeal of this collection comes in large part through its featured story, which will be discussed shortly. The artwork featured in this story also plays into the collection’s appeal and will be examined a little later. The bonus content that accompanies the collection rounds out its most important elements and will also be addressed later. Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of the story. All things considered they make the collection among the best of this year’s graphic novel releases.
Mech Cadets: Book One, the “new” collection of stories from Boom! Studios’ Mech Cadet Yu series, is a presentation that will appeal widely to anyone who is otherwise unfamiliar with the series. This is due in no small part to its featured story. The story featured across this 300-plus page volume is relatively simple. It is an underdog story that finds its main character, Stanford Yu – a young janitor at the Sky Corps Academy – becoming the unlikely pilot of a mech robo and joining the battle against threats and attacks from otherworldly beings. The story features Stanford becoming quick friends with some of the other robo pilots quickly, though his connection with one pilot, Olivia Park, does not start out so smoothly. That is because Olivia is the daughter of the academy’s head general. He has hammered some very clearly biased views into her, which come into play right from the story’s outset. She treats Stanford (who is Chinese American) like he is less than her and the other cadets in the opening scene, going so far as to throw a drink at his feet, saying his place is to be a janitor and clean up others’ messes. Series’ writer Greg Pak is to be commended here, for the incorporation of this sharp moment, which echoes the racist views of so many people against minorities throughout history. Even in the not-too-distant future, this shows that sadly, such biases are still as prevalent as ever. The comment comes back to haunt her however as the story progresses, which will put a smile on many readers’ faces. What happens to her will be left for readers to discover for themselves, but it plays greatly into Olivia’s personal development, which Pak handles quite well throughout the story. As a matter of fact, Pak handles the development of each of the characters equally well, and it is just one more aspect of the story that he handles so well throughout each of the volume’s 12 chapters. The manner in which Pak combines the influences of so many science fiction influences – Asian and American – is just as worthy of applause.
Throughout the course of the overall story’s presentation, readers will easily note the use of young heroes in giant robots fighting monsters from another world to so many science fiction movies and television series. The first franchise that comes to mind is Japan’s long-running Super Sentai series, which itself led to the birth of one of America’s most famous and long-running action properties in the Power Rangers. At the same time, audiences can just as easily make comparison to the Pacific Rim movies, what with the design of the interstellar kaiju that the young heroes battle. Considering that Mech Cadet Yu debuted in 2017, four years after Warner Brothers’ action flick Pacific Rim made its theatrical debut, one can’t help but imagine Pak took some influence from that movie, too. Additionally, audiences familiar with their literary and cinematic history will also catch a clear similarity to author Ted Hughes’ 1968 book, The Iron Giant and its 1999 cinematic adaptation (ironically, also from Warner Brothers). In researching Boom! Studios’ new release, the comparison is not accidental, as research shows Pak did in fact take influence from said book and movie, so that would account for the connection between Stanford and Buddy (his robot) and even the very look of Buddy. This matter will be discussed shortly. Getting back on the topic at hand, that Pak was able to take so many obvious influences and combine them into one whole here, without letting the story get away with itself (for lack of better wording) makes the story all the more engaging and entertaining. The messages of friendship, trust, loyalty, and family all presented here ring soundly thanks to Pak’s ability to so seamlessly combine all of those influences. The result is a story that will not only engage and entertain readers of so many ages, but also endear the story to all of those readers.
There is no doubt that the story featured in Mech Cadets: Book One goes a long way toward making the newly re-issued collection so enjoyable. It is just part of what readers will appreciate from this collection. The artwork exhibited throughout the story makes for its own appeal. As noted already, Park took clear influence from The Iron Giant and its cinematic adaptation for the story, at least to a point. That extent is not limited just to the story. The look of Buddy is a rather clear lifting from the alien robot at the center of that story. When the design of the robot is put alongside that of Buddy it becomes especially clear. From the shape of Buddy’s eyes to his head to his general body construction, the similarity in body design is intentional. Staying on this topic for a moment, the bonus content that accompanies the new set shows that the design for Buddy in Mech Cadets is actually quite different from Buddy in Los Robos, the predecessor for Mech Cadet Yu. His design (and those of the other robots) actually looks more akin to something from the Ultraman franchise than The Iron Giant. The ridged helmet, the more detailed facial structure and general body structure is completely different. On a related note, Stanford looks more like one of the younger characters from the original Transformers (and its root Japanese series) in Los Robos whereas in Mech Cadet Yu, he looks a lot more like Ash from the long-running Pokemon franchise, what with the facial deign, hat and hair. One thing that stays largely the same between Los Robos and Mech Cadet Yu however, is the overall definition of everything. The use of the coloring in the backgrounds and the rough look of the characters gives the overall property an organic look that is welcome in its own unique way. Keeping all of this and so much more related to the artwork in mind, the overall artwork used in this series does plenty to make the artwork presented here just as important to the presentation as the story.
The bonus content that accompanies the collection in its new release is just as important to the graphic novel as its primary content. In the case of this set, the bonus content comes in the form of the original Los Robos one-off and sketches that show the designs of each character. It is through the presentation of Los Robos that readers can see the clear stylistic difference between that one-off story and that of Mech Cadet Yu. Another difference that readers will note is that that the general’s child was initially a boy, not a girl, in Los Robos. Pak does not explain in his introduction here, why the general’s son became a daughter in the process. It would be interesting to learn that detail. Either way, the comparison that readers can make in this bonus makes for plenty of engagement and entertainment in its own right.
Something Pak does note in his introduction to the Los Robos one-off is that it was always his dream and that of illustrator and series co-creator Takeshi Miyazawa to turn Mech Cadet Yu into an ongoing series. It looks like now that wish is going to happen as the original limited series will have a brand-new chapter published Aug. 9. According to information released this week by Boom! Studios, the new chapter will pick up where this collection ends. Olivia has to learn some very hard lessons about responsibility as the pilot of the new mech robo, Hero Force 2. The Sharg invasion is over, but new revelations that stem from the events of the invasion lead to even more concerns for the Sky Corps and its young cadets. Knowing that Mech Cadet Yu is getting a whole new life following this collection’s release is even more of a bonus for the series’ fans. When this and the impact of the other bonus content is considered along with the engagement and entertainment generated through the collection’s story and art, the whole makes Mech Cadets: Book One a worthwhile read for any science fiction and anime fan regardless of their familiarity with this franchise.
Mech Cadets: Book One is a great new beginning for Boom! Studios’ Mech Cadet Yu comic book series and is especially promising for anyone who might be less familiar with the franchise. That is due in part to its featured story. The underdog story will resonate with readers of all ages while the lessons of friendship, family, trust, and teamwork will especially resonate with younger readers. The artwork presented throughout the story adds it own touch to the whole, what with the coloring and character designs. The bonus content that accompanies the book adds even more to the collection through its presentation of the series’ predecessor, Los Robos. Reading through the 10-page feature creates even more engagement through the comparisons to its story and design to those featured in Mech Cadet Yu and Mech Cadets: Book One. The comparison generates more appreciation for both titles. Each item examined here is important in its own way to the whole of the book. All things considered they make Mech Cadets: Book One an enjoyable presentation for so many science-fiction and anime fans.
More information on Mech Cadets: Book One and other titles from Boom! Studios is available at:
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