By Dustin Cabeal
Mobile Suit Gundam: Thunderbolt is interesting. Not in a “bad” way or even in a “wow, that’s totally different” kind of way, but rather in that it manages to tackle all the themes of war better than all the Gundams before it. The catch is, I wonder if it would be as good if we weren’t all so familiar with the themes of the previous Gundam series.
What is incredible is that this is looking to be a three-volume series and in that three volumes it’s accomplishing an incredible amount of world building, and character reveals. Not character development, because these characters are locked into their personalities, and if anything, Yasuo Ohtagaki does a wonderful job of keeping them consistent throughout their challenges in the story.
Another thing that is brilliant about this story is that there’s not a villain. There are villains, but neither side is being labeled as “the bad guy” to the reader. That’s rarely the case in Gundam as the side without the Gundams is considered the “bad guys, ” and that’s all there is to it. With this story, sure we have a Gundam, but we have a Zeon suit that’s amped up to Gundam levels which balances the power of the story. It’s a statement of war, that the people in the war aren’t bad people usually and that both sides have a worthy cause to fight for and so labeling them with black and white terms just doesn’t work.
The last thing that I enjoyed about this volume and the series overall is that every choice has a consequence and that it’s truly a war. No one is safe. Your favorite character isn’t safe, that support character isn’t safe, nothing is safe, and these two sides have been ordered to fight to the death, and that’s what they’re going to do. War is hell, and this book doesn’t shy away from that notion.
The art is so fucking incredible. It’s not just that it's gorgeous to look at, particularly when there’s no dialogue, and we just see a silent space battle between suits and ships. But it also tells the story without saying a word. This happens many times throughout the volume in which something is shown and never fully commented on via the dialogue. Having read a lot of manga in the past year, I have to point out just how rare it is for a manga just to let the art do the talking. That the battle scenes are just some of the best, I’ve ever had the pleasure of seeing.
To say I’m looking forward to next volume is a bit of an understatement. This series makes me jump for joy and desire a huge Gundam inspired tattoo on my back. Until the next volume, I’ll just contemplate both.
Mobile Suit Gundam: Thunderbolt vol. 2
Story and Art: Yasuo Ohtagaki
Publisher: Viz/Viz Signature