Pullbox Reviews Gatchaman #1 – Finally! The Science Ninja Team is back in action & flying into your local comic shop!

A mechanical terror has descended upon numerous cities and the world’s greatest scientists are disappearing. Our only hope: Science Ninja Team Gatchaman! As they battle these machinations from the international terrorist organization known as Galactor, their strength, willpower, and even vehicles are pushed to the absolute limit. If they fail…who’s waiting in the wings to take their place? The first exciting issue in an ongoing series that expands upon the original anime series!

Quick history lesson. Before there were Power Rangers, before five mechanical lions came together to form Voltron, before super-teams wearing primary colors were an after-school television staple, Gatchaman was driving kids into a frenzy. Premiering in Japan in 1972 as Science Ninja Squad Gatchaman, the series has been serialized, sequelized, adapted, and translated. My own intro to the Science Ninja Team was in 1978 when it came to the United States as Battle of the Planets. I spent hours running around the house with a towel draped across my shoulders, shouting “G-Force!” and making my mom crazy.

With all the recent revivals of classic properties (Space Ghost, Johnny Quest, Thundercats, & more on the way), I kept the faith, held firm to my nostalgia-colored glasses, and waited for someone to come along and bring it all back. Then I heard a whisper… actually, I ran into Frank Silva, media relations guru for Mad Cave Studios, at MegaCon Orlando. He handed me a little care package that included a preview of some pretty fantastic cover art…

With the help & support of Tatsunoko Production, Gatchaman was coming to the Cave.

That was good enough for me… until info on the creative team behind the series came out. Stepping out of his horror story wheelhouse is the always outstanding Cullen Bunn (The Sixth Gun, Deadpool Kills the Marvel Universe, Harrow County). On my first read through of the opening issue, I got a kick out of how his dialogue and plotting matched my memories of the source, pulling from the original animated series and expanding on it. Then, because I realized that those memories were flavored more by Gatchaman’s Battle of the Planets incarnation, I tracked down some of the original Japanese episodes to refresh my memory and went at the comic again. It’s all there. The battle cries, the melodrama, the action… great sky wizards, the action! What comes through in Bunn’s writing is a genuine love for the source material, something that should be a given but is too often overlooked when you’re talking about properties like Gatchaman.

One thing that can’t be denied, even 52 years later, is that Gatchaman is a visually striking… dare I say iconic… body of work. I don’t know many people who wouldn’t immediately recognize the silhouette of The Science Ninja Team, a group who literally set the tone (get it?) for every other color-coordinated five-member adventure team to come after them. Artist Chris Batista and colorist Carlos Lopez did the homework and got the assignment, leaving the character designs one hundred percent intact and taking no liberties. What I did think was interesting was how the look of the original characters was upheld, down to the finest anime-inspired detail, but there is a slightly different approach when it came to some of the new supporting players. It isn’t so much a shift in the style of the book as it is a spotlight on the main heroes and setting them apart from the rest. Batista is on the record saying that Battle of the Planets/Gatchaman left its mark on him as an artist. That’s the kind of regard I see when I’m flipping through these pages (for a third time), the respect for the source material fans should be able to count on.

No unnecessary or unwanted reboot, Mad Cave Studios & crew are building on what’s come before. Cullen Bunn is creating new stories to fit within the established boundaries of the old, and Chris Batista maintains all of the visual flair that made Gatchaman a series still loved by fans after half a century. I’ve been waiting for someone to step up to the plate and take a swing at this unimpeachable classic, and it looks like all that patience might have finally paid off.

Final Score: 12/13

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