By Dustin Cabeal
The other day I was in a pet store and was wearing a mecha shirt that was mistaken for Gundam like it often is, and the employee that was talking to me said he wished they still made Gundam. He was referring to Gundam Wing, which I felt like telling him had a perfect ending and shouldn’t have done Endless Waltz, but it showed me that people are kind of clueless about the current status of Gundam and that’s too bad. While Iron Blooded Orphans is the spiritual successor to Gundam Wing, Thunderbolt is the perfect continuation of the entire Gundam storyline. There is something magical about the way this story wraps everything into a tight package to enjoy. If you’re looking for more Gundam, this is it!
Just when I didn’t think this series could get any better. The last volume was not only gut wrenchingly sad, but it was visually stunning as well. This volume finds ways to top almost everything, but the art and only because it remains consistently amazing.
The story flashes forward some. Instead of having a long and detailed ending it hustles along to the next big stretch of the story. Which was exactly the right choice. Gundam lives and dies by the action and drama, and when there’s none, it’s painful reading. The realism of the world is so great that it reminds you of the world you’re living in and suddenly you’re thinking about taxes instead of mech fighters in space.
There are plenty of surprises in this volume, and all of them would be boring for me to sum up for you. I will say that the status quo is restored a bit, but thankfully they leave the Thunderbolt region. The story heads to earth where operation Thunderbolt begins. I liked that it kept the title there even as the location switched. It’s still very much the same story, and it shows how important the battles in the first three volumes were to this world.
Thunderbolt cranks up the political drama in this volume. From corporate sponsorships to a third party that wants to break off from all the other fractions. It reflects so much of the current political landscape we’re living in that it’s remarkable. It also shows that life imitates art and that we’re very circular in nature since Gundam has been telling stories like this for decades. Maybe once we get giant mecha to pilot, we’ll actually pay attention. Regardless, the story remains top notch. The characters don’t find themselves constantly developed, but they do change and shift as the situations around them change. There’s a consistency to them that’s needed in this world and story. In that same regard, it’s still very hard to figure out who’s right and wrong in this battle. The grey area is where we find ourselves. You end up picking the character you like the best, and that’s different from any other Gundam story I’ve read. Usually, it’s the Gundam side, but that’s not the case here. It could go either way, and if there’s one thing that Thunderbolt is great a showing, it's how crummy humanity can be regardless of which side of the war you’re on.
The artwork is so fucking beautiful. I could look at the space sequences all day, but sadly we’re not there the entire story anymore. There’s still quite a bit of space, but also a lot of earth elements. Perhaps one of the best parts was the ship clearing the atmosphere. There was so much detail and realism that I felt like I was in the ship with them. The art continues to be detailed and the perfect style for the series. I wish there were more mech fights in this volume, but I’m sure there will be plenty more in the near future of the story.
If you like or love Gundam, then you should already be reading this. I wish the anime they did was widely released because it too was gorgeous and great. If you’re not a Gundam fan, then give it a shot anyway. It has the thick drama of both the human and political variety and artwork that any comic book fan can appreciate.
Mobile Suit Gundam: Thunderbolt vol. 4
Writer/Artist: Yasuo Ohtagaki
Original Concept: Hajime Yatate and Yoshiyuki Tomino
Publisher: Viz/Viz Signature