By Dustin Cabeal
I don’t know if I’ve ever talked about how great the cover feels for this book, but I’m going to take a moment and talk about it. The Viz Signature books are always bigger in size than the mangas they release. I don’t know why they don’t offer a choice between both for each title they print because there are numerous titles that I would like to read in the larger format. Anyway, the Signature series is the premiere format. The paper is a bit better, the cover is about the same, but it’s just nicer in the hands. Thunderbolts cover is the nicest cover of the Signature line. It has a better cover that has a nice texture. You want to hold it. You want to run your fingers up and down it because of how it feels. It almost tricks the mind into thinking that the interior pages feel the same which is crazy, but that’s what it does to me. It is hands down, the best feeling cover of any manga I have read. I have stopped to touch the cover at least three times while writing about it, it’s just that nice to touch, and usually, I don’t excessively touch covers, but with Thunderbolt, I always do.
This volume of Thunderbolt is interesting in that its all one scene. It’s about ten minutes of real time, but it plays across the pages of this entire thick volume. The gist is that the Federation Ship is moving into Nanyang territory to test what they’ll do. What’s discovered is that Claudia is still alive and leading the force against them, which sends IO into a frenzy! A lot of the volume is just him in a slightly modified suit jumping and freefalling from ship to ship searching for Claudia. After the operation, they figure out they have a spy on board who sends a warning to their commander. She spills the beans about who their enemy really is, and as they say, the plot thickens.
What’s wonderful about Thunderbolt is how many pages are dedicated to pure art. Damn near every manga I read looks wonderful, but they’re all scared to let the art carry the story in the least bit. You can almost sense the panic when there hasn’t been any dialogue for a few panels. Thunderbolt can go on for pages without saying a word. Hell, sometimes they won’t even be fighting, just squaring up against each other. There’s a bit of that in this volume, not a ton because IO’s character is so pissed and angry that instead of just sitting back listening to music he’s yelling and running around in a suit performing amazing abilities that most can’t. Though I will never truly understand why everyone can’t perform the same tasks in Gundams, it’s just become something I’ve accepted over the years since I don’t think there’s any logic to it they can or want to go into. The story with the Nanyang continues to be interesting. This third party is an amazing addition to the two sides of the war and makes so much sense to the overall world.
The detail of the artwork continues to be wonderful. Not only does the art drive the story as much as the dialogue, but it continues to get better. When Claudia returns, there is a sharp difference to her in how she looks. She’s recognizable, but you can tell she’s changed as a person. All of that pours out from the visuals of the story. Thunderbolt is a bloody story, but the violence is masterfully done. It’s not beautiful; it’s pretty hard to look at sometimes when suiciders are being gun downed while putting up talismans. Hell, even the mechs, as wonderful as they are to see fighting, have a sense of real-world casualties. Thunderbolt blurs the line of war leaving you to wonder, who is on the right side of this battle? Is anyone or is war just hell?
Eventually, this story must end. All Gundam stories end, and that’s part of their charm. They can run for a long time, but they are nothing without an ending. My only hope for Thunderbolt is that it doesn’t tug on my heartstrings too, too much because I continue to be attached to these characters and the world they live in. Time will tell, but for now, this is another stunning volume to add to your collection.
Mobile Suit Gundam: Thunderbolt vol. 7