Greg Pak and Takeshi Miyazawa’s latest collaboration launches itself not into space, but back down to earth, for a laid-back and breezy adventure series which handily keeps one mechanized foot firmly on the ground.
In the world of Mech Cadet Yu, young cadets are trained at an elite academy in Arizona to become pilots. But as the title suggests, they aren’t learning to fly planes, but instead are being taught how to forge a bond with a race of giant robots who descend to Earth once a year in order to form fighting combat hero duos with their chosen human pilot. The comic asks readers to leap into disbelief, but spends the remainder of its pagecount developing this high concept into something earthy and relatively grounded, all things considered.
By this point Miyazawa and Pak have established a firm working relationship, following past work on comics like Code Monkey Save World and their creation of Marvel’s Amadeus Cho (currently the Totally Awesome Hulk). There’s a slower pace than in their previous comics together, but the page space is used instead for Miyazawa to demonstrate his ability to develop characters through low-key posture and expression. Whilst the story rolls along steadily, the comic feels like a real opportunity for the artistic team to skip the need for drama and instead build up real, authentic characters in understated fashion. There’s a point just towards the end of the issue which could have been built easily into a fight scene — but instead shifts into something different, funnier, and built with more meaning for both the leading characters.
The dynamic between Yu and the Robo Mech he stumbles upon in the desert is the most immediately charming aspect of this opening part of the planned four-issue miniseries (which may well grow into something more based on how well the first few issues sell; hopefully we’ll see this story run for a year) and it’s notable how the creative team showcase the pairing before then quickly halting it for the time being. The story seems to be heading for giant robot funtimes, but knows that the best move is to hold back and save the real heroics for later. Putting a scrappy kid in the palm of a bumbling robot makes for an enjoyable comic, but the pairing wouldn’t work as well if the comic hadn’t spent so much time previously developing Stanford and his social standing.
If there’s a criticism here, it’s that this first issue has a heart of gold but doesn’t bring a huge amount of threat into its storyline. For all the giant robots and the promise of aliens in future issues, the series isn’t particularly interested in cynicism. Challenges are met, the underdog gets the support he needs, and overall there’s not a real feeling that Stanford is in any real danger whilst he’s in this universe. Barring a huge twist in a future issue, the series seems content on crafting a feel-good story with only small hurdles — which will appeal to some and be a bit predictable for others.
But for those who are looking to see the little guy find his foot among the giants in society, Mech Cadet Yu offers a wonderfully earthbound and entertaining first issue.