By Greg Pak, Takeshi Miyazawa, Triona Farrell, and Simon Bowland
Mech Cadet Yu #5 begins the latest arc in the series with potentially the most wholesome twist in comics, as the kids face their punishment for disobeying orders. The ethos of this series (government-trained child soldiers aside) combined with the nostalgia infused rendering of the giant mechs makes this issue a good read for all ages.
Yu, the titular character, shows acceptance and diligence, a product his mother’s parenting.This is juxtaposed subtly with his fellow cadet, Park. Her father asserts his dominance over her constantly, potentially showing his desire to build the perfect soldier and build renown for the family. The attitudes of both kids seem to be a direct result of their respective upbringing. Even more interestingly, though, is a short exchange between Park and Yu about privilege. Park, raised by a military man, had access to a better education, while Yu’s mother works as a janitor and is not as financially able to provide for her child. He’s made fun of for watching “gov-prop cartoons” rather than studying military history and Park surmises that this is why he is not as strategically capable. This, combined with the kids’ punishment early on in the issue, provides an interesting take on class—in an all-ages series.
The design of each mech has its own personality thanks to Miyazawa’s illustrations and these help build toward the themes of the book as well. When the kids meet more of the blue collar workers on the military base, their mechs are reflective of the conditions they work under. They’re drawn to appear as if they were hand-me-down clothes, shoddily kept together and in some cases missing parts altogether. Small, short lines on the chassis of these ‘bots serve as indicators of this, especially compared to the smooth surface of Park’s mech.
The best parts of this issue come from the cooperation of the creators and the presence of that quality in the characters. Superstar veteran, Skip Tamaki, is as suave and alluring as any character’s description of him. Conversely, Yu’s mother, Dolly, needs no introduction. She’s written and drawn in a way that immediately gives off a protective yet stern characteristic. On the other end of the spectrum are the alien invaders known as Sharg; massive crustaceans that can only be matched by our heroes’ mechs. The designs and coloration of these creatures is morbidly and wildly fun when they appear on a page. Their definitively evil nature is balanced well narratively, though, with the conflicts of the main group.
This issue of Mech Cadet Yu receives a strong recommendation, even for first time readers. The characters are fun to engage with despite their slightly clichéd backgrounds, as the creators freshen up old stereotypes with new conversations. Potentially the only feel-good mech story there is, this issue is welcoming and insightful. Issue #5 seems to be framing an arc about working together despite differences in ideals and backgrounds, and what could be more relevant?