By Daniel Vlasaty
I really enjoyed the first issue of Mech Cadet Yu when it came out last month. I thought it was a solid opening issue. And I was excited to jump back into this “boy and his giant robot” story. I wanted to see how Greg Pak and Takeshi Miyazawa continued to grow this story that is not entirely unique or original but is still being presented interestingly and engagingly.
In my head issue #2 of Mech, Cadet Yu is, essentially, the montage issue. This is the issue where we get a lot of the standard plot points you might expect from a story like this one. You got an outcast kid who is chosen for something he’s always dreamed of, but that has always seemed like an impossibility. A kid who is now entering a world that is far different than the one he is used to, a world where he isn’t just a lowly janitor anymore. You have his fearful mother, who does what mothers tend to do. You have the other students, some accepting of Yu into their world, and others who feel they are better than him and therefore use their “status” to continue to beat him down. A lot of stuff that happens in this issue and this is all on top of the new cadets beginning their mech training.
In the beginning, Yu is exactly how you’d expect him to be. He is clumsy and uncoordinated and awkward. But he’s also good at things some of the other characters wouldn’t expect him to be good at. He can fix things, and there’s an instance when the mechanics can’t seem to get something right with Yu’s mech, who he’s taken to calling Buddy, and Yu steps in and fixes it up right away. The rivalries are also introduced in this issue, and it seems that Yu is incapable of winning over everyone is the Mech Cadet Class.
While, like I said, there is a lot that happens in this issue, it is all mostly set up and character development. It appears that Pak has pulled back a little and is giving readers a chance to get to know these characters before jumping into more hard-hitting action – that I expect is coming. Which is a good thing. Because it would have been just as easy to push forward with the Shrag attack and forgo any character development. I think I shows the type of story Mech Cadet Yu is going to shape up to be. More character-driven than plot-driven. Should be easy enough to accomplish, especially with his ever-growing stable of likable characters.
Pak has a lot to work with here. He’s barely even gotten to the world Mech Cadet Yu takes place in or really anything about the Shrag aliens and the war the humans had with them. And then there’s still the Mechs, too, which are basically living robots. I think. I’m not totally sure because they’ve barely been touched in the story either. This is a rich world and it is full of potential.
A solid story that is well-written is all fine and good. But it still needs the art to back it up. And luckily for Mech Cadet Yu, and readers alike, Takeshi Miyazawa’s art is great. And perfectly fitting for the story. Coupled with Triona Farrell’s bright and layered color work, this is truly a beautifully imagined book. The art in Mech Cadet Yu kind of gives off a manga feel, in both tone and in character expressions. You really get a feel for the characters’ emotions. In Yu’s mother, Dolly, especially. Emotions really resonate throughout the issue.
On a second pass-through of this issue, I noticed that it’s of the backgrounds are either just plain color or really simple art. There isn’t much attention given to them. But I don’t think it matters. It didn’t really change the way I felt about the art. It’s just something I noticed. In some other books, this might have been more of an issue but here my attention was so focused on the characters and their interactions that I didn’t notice it at first.
Mech Cadet Yu employs all the workings of a “feel-good” book. It’s an underdog story. And I’m a fan of this type of story. The characters are strong and great and I feel a connection with them. Which is how it is supposed to be with characters. I want to feel for them. I want to feel with them. I want someone to root for. And we have that here. There are a few characters to root for. I have no idea where this book is going to go – I have some ideas, but there is some much to work with here, I could be so far off. And I’d be okay with that. This is just a fun book that I am so far enjoying immensely.
Mech Cadet Yu #2