Last month’s debut issue of Mech Cadet Yu launched the series with a bang by introducing readers to a world and premise that felt classic yet fresh at the same time. Does the second issue live up to that strong beginning?
Fortunately, Mech Cadet Yu doesn’t flounder after its opening act. This issue is beautiful, both artistically and narratively. Writing-wise, Greg Pak makes a plethora of decisions here that take the “boy and his robot” premise and elevate it to instant classic level. A quick summation of this issue’s plot might sound familiar: unassuming young man finds himself chosen for a destiny he may have dreamed of but never knew he’d achieve, certain opposing forces resent his rise to prominence and plot accordingly. It’s the story’s small details, though, that make this issue so impactful.
Take, for instance, a pile of trash left outside of Yu’s new dorm room at Sky Corps Academy. Having grown up as a janitor, he doesn’t forget where he comes from, and neither does his stuck-up rival, Park. Even more significant than Park’s aggression toward Yu, however, is how Yu’s mother’s stops him from cleaning up the mess, telling him: “That’s not your job anymore. They want you to be a hero? Well, now they gotta treat you like one.”
Yu’s mother shines at multiple other points in the issue as well. One instance is when she tells Yu about how his father cried during the birth of his son, as she debates signing the forms that would allow Yu to pursue his dreams as a mech pilot. Oftentimes in stories starring children who are destined for greatness, the parent characters are sidelined into being little more than voices of disapproval, obstacles for the children to overcome. Here, the parent is not one-note. Yu’s mother is just as well fleshed out as any of the younger characters, and her concern for Yu is palatable, not just a plot device.
Other standout moments include Yu’s first bonding experiences with fellow cadets Sanchez and Olivetti, as well as his adorable friendship with his robo partner. The panel in which, tasked with deciding on an appropriate name for the mech, Yu chooses the simple and to-the-point “Buddy,” is heartwarming. Plot-wise, I have few cons with this issue. On one hand, given the mecha anime feel and tropes at play here, certain events feel a bit predictable. With that said, the execution is always strong and the characters never act in a way that feels inorganic, so it’s not too big of a deal. The announcement that the Sharg (the alien race at war with the humans and mecha) have returned is a bit more disappointing. They’re obviously going to play a major role in issues to come, but I wish they hadn’t been brought in quite so soon. Hopefully the next issues will handle the situation well and not feel too rushed.
No discussion of this series would be complete without addressing the art team’s strong work. Takeshi Miyazawa’s pencils do wonders for the issue’s emotional resonance. Yu’s full range of emotions are all beautifully rendered in his facial expressions, and the robot designs remain a lot of fun. Colorist Triona Farrell keeps things bright and layered, with shifting color schemes based upon mood and physical location. The earthy orange deserts and light blue skies are a great backdrop for a training montage, and darker hues used within the interiors of buildings work well alongside the writing’s more serious moments. My main con with the art in this issue is the degree to which background details frequently receive less attention that objects in the foreground. It’s very reminiscent of old school cartoons, so it fits with the overall aesthetic and isn’t too distracting, but I still wish the level of detail throughout was a little more even.
Overall, Mech Cadet Yu #2 is a satisfying follow-up to a fantastic opening act. A lot happens in these twenty-ish pages: Yu becomes a mech cadet, two of his fellow pilots warm up to him, Park and her father’s schemes progress, Yu’s mother gets fleshed out significantly, and the Sharg return. Yet, somehow, I breezed through all that and asked “That’s it? I have to wait another month?” One of the best things an issue can do is make me impatient for the next one, and Mech Cadet Yu has left me eager for the second month in a row.