Ultraman just revealed that he’ll only protect humans from kaiju, not from each other, and would even let his human host’s friends die.
Warning: contains spoilers for The Trials of Ultraman #4!
Ultraman is known the world over as a kaiju-fighting hero, but in The Trials of Ultraman #4, readers learn that’s all he’ll fight. When a mad scientist creates a fake kaiju to discredit Ultraman and the United Science Patrol, Ultraman refuses to act because there are no real kaiju involved, only people. Even when Shin Hayata realizes his friends are about to be torn apart by an angry mob, the alien entity who shares his body refuses to help, apologizing and urging Shin to take a direct hand even without his powers.
Since acquiring the rights to produce comic books in America based on the Ultraman franchise, Marvel has produced two miniseries that have redefined Ultraman for the twenty-first century. The first, Rise of Ultraman, introduced the hero to a new audience, and the second, Trials of Ultraman, shows the aftermath: the Earth is now aware of the existence of the USP and kaiju as a whole. Some have chosen not to believe and maintain that the kaiju are a ruse created to help control people. One such skeptic, Professor Nikaido, has created a giant, mechanical kaiju and plans to use it to discredit the USP, and in Trials of Ultraman #4, he makes his move by revealing his creation in Iceland.
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As Shin Hayata speeds with other members of the USP to Iceland, he implores Ultra to activate their merged abilities as Ultraman, but the alien consciousness refuses. Shin is aghast, telling Ultra that innocents will die, but his ally will not budge, saying that he cannot get involved because his presence merely escalates events, and they must rise above the cycle of human violence. When Shin’s friends are exposed as spies in Nikaido’s group, he decides to act anyway, air-dropping in to help. Thankfully, it’s then that Ultra realizes the kaiju is using a power source not native to this universe, finally agreeing to join the fight now he knows the machine isn’t a purely human creation. Shin changes to Ultraman and engages the creature, and not long after he does, a real kaiju arrives, beginning a three-way battle between monster, machine, and alien-empowered human.
It seems odd that a hero like Ultraman, who has saved countless lives, would not get involved in the situation, but his logic is sound. Ultra considers both the kaiju and himself as outside forces acting on humanity – he can justify acting against a similarly alien threat, but not taking a direct hand in human affairs, believing such an act would “ripple out across centuries.” Even Shin’s argument that inaction carries the same moral weight as action doesn’t budge his alien ally, with Ultra replying that he agrees but is able to bear the burden of his choices, challenging Shin to show the same maturity.
Ultraman is a hero, but a very particular one, and The Trials of Ultraman #4 – from Kyle Higgins, Mat Groom, Francesco Manna, Espen Grundetjern and Ariana Maher – makes it clear that while he may be the planet’s best defense against the seemingly unstoppable influx of kaiju, he’s not willing to lend his human host the power of Ultraman on a whim. Thankfully, on this occasion, Professor Nikaido seems to have had some outside help constructing his monstrosity, but the issue makes it clear that if Shin wants to be a true hero, he’ll need to do so through his own efforts, not just by transforming into Ultraman.
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