Stan Lee’s foray into manga has been one of mixed results. While the first volume showed a world of premise with its echoes of Green Lantern, the second collapsed under the weight of the story, devolving into typical shonen fare sprinkled with a hint of Pokemon. While its true, most of this can be blamed on Takei, who handles the majority of the story, Lee is no innocent bystander, being given a consulting role with the opportunity to offer creative input. The third volume continues building the theme of good vs evil with echoes of man’s true nature being the center piece of it all but unfortunately, the handling of this story is far from perfect and leaves more to be desired.
As hard as Ultimo tries to present morally ambiguous ideas about humanity and its overbearing tendencies for destruction, it just can’t shake the need to prove that it is a shonen series. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing when handled correctly but Ultimo does it in a way that it clutters the plot with needless comedy and over stylized fight sequences.
Readers are treated to more flashbacks, which have been a hindrance to the pacing of the series given how many there have been in the span of three volumes, and Ultimo and Yamato undergo a pledge ritual that is just creepy. Takei really needs to stop littering the series with questionable pedophile imagery, even if they are meant to be taken as just jokes.
Later on, the volume picks up when both Ultimo and Vice unlock astonishing new powers and a new pack of Doji representing the traits of the seven deadly sins show up to make their presence known. One could argue the manner in which they are introduced is rushed and leaves little room for lasting impact but thankfully, an advantage to being a shonen manga is a long life span in which the characters will have a better chance to make a statement down the line.
As much promise as Ultimo has, one can’t help but feel that it is squandered between Takei’s mind numbing attempt at humor and Lee’s over complicated plot. The series can’t quite make up its mind as to whether it wants to be a shonen series or something more thought-provoking. Hopefully the creators can sort it all out by next volume because as of this point, Ultimo’s story comes off as bloated and loud.