We are currently living in an era where the superhero genre has broad representation. Whether in print, television, or film, there is more diversity in these mediums than ever before. Today’s superhero media is perfect for the present generation of children as they will grow up having a role model who looks like them, something many people of the older generation did not have. One series that encapsulates everything great about the current comic book culture is Mech Cadet Yu Vol. 1 by Greg Pak (writer/co-creator), Takeshi Miyazawa (illustrator/co-creator), Triona Farrell (colorist), and Simon Bowland (letterer). The series offers readers a diverse cast fighting off an alien invasion which helps reinforce the idea that anyone can be a hero.
Plot Of Mech Cadet Yu Vol. 1
60 years before Mech Cadet Yu Vol. 1’s present timeline, a Robo mech from outer space descended onto earth and befriended a boy named Skip Tanaka. The Robo and Skip partnered together and defended the world from alien monsters known as the Sharg. Due to their influence, Earth created the Sky Corps: an academy which trains the best and brightest to become potential Robo pilots. Every four years, more Robos appear from space and bond with cadets of their choice.
Therefore, students train diligently for the chance of becoming the next crop of mech pilots. Enter Stanford Yu, the main character of Mech Cadet Yu Vol. 1. His dream is to become a mech pilot; however, he is not a cadet of Sky Corps. He and his mother work on the base as janitorial staff. Due to their position, Stanford suffers from the cadets bullying him over his dream.
On the day of the Robos’ arrival, Stanford watches the ceremony from afar, seeing them descend from the sky and bond with cadets. This saddens him as he wishes to be in their position. However, at that moment, he finds a Robo which crash-landed in an area near him. Once he assists the Robo, it surprises Stanford by choosing to bond with him despite him not being a Sky Corps’ cadet.
Stanford, overwhelmed with happiness, bonds with it, forcing the academy to admit him as an official pilot. Despite Stanford’s excitement, he sees how his sudden admission agitates other cadets. Now, Stanford has to prove to not only them but to his superiors and himself that he is worthy of being a pilot. And with the threat of another imminent Sharg invasion, Stanford will have to prove himself fast.
Art Of Mech Cadet Yu Vol. 1
While it focuses on a group of children, Mech Cadet Yu Vol. 1 features a gritty art style. There is not much smoothness in Takeshi Miyazawa’s character designs as the linework is sharp. However, he imbues a cartoony-aesthetic in his drawings and his characters receive anatomically-correct designs. When it comes to the Robos, Miyazawa makes the painstaking effort to show every dimension of the mechs. He adds dents and scratches to display how battle-worn they are as well. And, similarly to his human character, his Robos come in all shades and sizes.
Perhaps the most impressive character design by Miyazawa are the Sharg. These alien beings display a crustacean appearance as they have claws, a spiny exoskeleton, and segmented legs. They are bigger than the Robos, and when placing them in a civilian setting, their size alone illustrates why they are a threat. Setting wise, the story takes place in Arizona where the surroundings consist of mountains and desert. A majority of the panels featured in Mech Cadet Yu Vol. 1 comprise of a one-color background. However, Miyazawa does provide a more detailed backdrop when illustrating the inside of the Sky Corps base or during Sharg attacks.
Finally, what ties the art together is Triona Farrell’s contribution. Her coloring perfectly balances the reality of an alien invasion with the dreaming-hero story. Whenever the series follows Stanford, it provides bright colors: yellow, orange, and pink. However, when the series takes place within Sky Corps, Farrell uses sterile colors like gray, white, and blue. They emphasize the strict atmosphere found within the organization. When the comic features Sharg attacks, the colors become darker: brown, navy blue, or moss green. These grimy colors enhance how alien these creatures are.
How Stanford Yu Overcomes Obstacles
The main character, Stanford Yu, is the underdog character that comic fans enjoy rooting for. He is the kind of character who has everything stacked against him but does not allow his circumstances to determine his capabilities. He lives alone with his mother and works with her as a janitor. And, he undergoes bullying from the cadets at Sky Corps because of his position. (They see him as beneath them due to his job.) Stanford presses forward with his dreams despite their taunts because he has a valuable support system through his mother. She is well aware of how people treat them due to their work but makes sure Stanford does not allow what they say to get to him.
Along with the mistreatment he faces because of his job, Mech Cadet Yu Vol. 1 also displays moments when Stanford faces racial discrimination. These moments are micro-aggressive comments from people telling him not to speak his mother’s native tongue: Cantonese. Stanford’s mother often speaks to her son in Cantonese since that is her native language. However, people chastise Stanford for not speaking English in their presence instead.
Bullying because of one’s work and ethnicity are obstacles almost everyone faces at one point in their lives. Especially, when one receives an opportunity to prove themselves but the surrounding people believe they are not worthy of the chance. However, Stanford is working hard to overcome obstacles in Mech Cadet Yu Vol. 1, he sets a positive example to readers, teaching them that with effort anything is possible.
Diversity In The Sky Corps Cadets
Mech Cadet Yu Vol. 1 can easily gear toward a younger audience thanks to its diverse cast and honest messaging. The comic displays to readers that anyone can be a hero. The main character, Stanford Yu, is of Asian-American descent. He comes from a single-parent household and worked in a janitorial position which is regularly looked down upon by general society.
What is so enjoyable about Stanford is that he is not a stereotypical billionaire hero or omnipotent extraterrestrial. He is an average boy coming from an average home. He represents the general public where people have to work hard to earn what they have. Despite him not originally being in the Sky Corps, he gains an opportunity to prove himself because the Robo who bonds with him sees his potential. Heroes like Stanford are rare to come by as most of them are mystical beings, billionaires, or aliens.
Along with Stanford, Mech Cadet Yu Vol. 1 provides readers with a diverse pilot team. Stanford’s group comprises of three other pilots: Park (an Asian-American girl), Sanchez (a Latina), and Olivetti (a husky boy). Each character represents the appearance of the modern world: they are all different races, genders, and body types. However, they each display the potential of being a hero. This type of representation is a necessity in modern-comic media.
For as the series motivates readers to cheer on this new team of misfit cadets, it instills in them the fundamental truth that anyone can be a hero.