Story and Art: Yasuo Ohtagaki
Original Concept: Hajime Yatate and Yoshiyuki Tomino
Translation: Joe Yamazaki
English Adaptation: Stan!
Touch-up Art & Lettering: Evan Waldinger
Cover & Design: Shawn Carrico
Editing: Mike Montesa
What They Say:
“Only the dead know the end of war.” –Plato
The fleets of the Federation’s Moore Brotherhood and the Principality of Zeon have shattered each other in a bloody battle for the Thunderbolt Sector. Mirroring the greater struggle, the ferocious duel between ace pilots Io Fleming and Daryl Lorenz leaves the Psycho Zaku destroyed, the Full Armor Gundam heavily damaged and Io a prisoner of war. The Zeon space habitat A Baoa Qu now becomes the final battleground of the One Year War…
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Modern media has a tendency of making stories almost entirely centered on the action, with the pacing reflecting such. Long gone are the days when a giant fight is followed up with a significant break from the action for characters to pause and reflect. With binge-watching mentality permeating through all forms of media, the time for thoughtful reflection just isn’t as prevalent as it used to be. So reading the entirety of Gundam Thunderbolt volume 4 was quite the treat for me—showing how even something as visceral robot fights in space are deserving of quiet reflection.
Of course, the volume itself still has its fair share of space fights, but the overall feel of each of them is significantly more toned down. For the most part, we have little to no context as to who the people piloting the mechs are, and it’s back to the more black and white Federation vs Zeon fights I’d assume is more traditional of the Gundam franchise. Technobabble while piloting and over-dramatic renouncements of the Zabi family go over the head of this reader, but I’m sure fans of the franchise appreciated these nods to the original series, especially when Thunderbolt has been generally isolated from the rest of the series at large so far.
With an armistice shortly following the events of the last volume, both sides are given the time to regroup, plan ahead, and reflect on their positions within the war. We get to check in with characters both major and minor, learning of their current status, whether it be in hiding, deep sleep, or celebrated as a hero. And of course, this means another excellent contrast between Io Fleming and Daryl Lorenz.
What makes Io’s position so fascinating is that he clearly sees himself as a sympathetic character. He’s a hero and top Gundam pilot, but is also a mere drop in the ever-expanding ocean of victims from this war—and he’s fully aware of that. It’s reached the point that Io feels more at home on the battlefield than among civilians, and his discomfort when walking through crowds and accepting medals of honor is palpable. He’s become a war junkie that knows all he’s good for is fighting, and it’s clearly taking a toll on him. And yet in comparison to Daryl, he comes off as ungrateful and almost privileged in nature.
At least with Io, there is actually a home for him to go to. Compare that to Daryl, who can never escape his work—being transferred from one troop to another. Where Io finds discomfort among his moments of peace, Daryl must actively seek them out. Among his peers that assist in cleaning his mech, Daryl is forced to create his own moments of peace and normalcy. And even then, said moments are constantly undermined and tainted by the harsh realities he can never escape. His memories of running along the shore and feeling the cool water along his feet can no longer be re-lived as a quadruple amputee, and his prosthetics only serve as a painful reminder of this. Hearing his peers from afar reminding him not to get his legs rusty when in water is a simple yet painful reminder of the fix Daryl has gotten into, yet you know it’s something unavoidable under the looming influence that the war has on him.
All this while higher-ups from both sides prepare for the next task at hand—stealing the plans for the Reuse P Device. With mad-scientist Sexton having been intercepted by the equivalent of space monks, both the Federation and Zeon are after his knowledge. At first, long-winded talk of the Reuse P Device and how it can sway the outcome of future battles come off as dry, but as the volume continues, we begin to get a better image of the situation as a whole. In this regard, I must applaud author Ohtagaki for how perfectly paced out this particular volume is, especially when the action isn’t the main focus this time around. What initially starts off as overly-long explanations of Sexton’s technology as spoken by characters we’ve yet to be formally introduced to, becomes a major driving factor by volume’s end. As the final chapter ends with a swift back-and-forth between Federation and Zeon forces explaining the gravity of the situation, we’re given a taste of what’s to come as the Psycho Zaku and Atlas Gundam are brought into the spotlight as well as our two reluctant heroes in Io and Daryl—both making sure that the other doesn’t get their hands on the Reuse P Device.
Gundam Thunderbolt volume 4 makes excellent use of the lull following a climactic battle. While technobabble and nameless dog-fights between Federation and Zeon kick off the volume, readers are fully invested and caught up on the situation at hand by volume’s end. Seeing author Ohtagaki use this down time not only to better humanize Io and Daryl, but prepare readers for the chaos that’s bound to ensue next volume further proves he’s a master at his craft.
Content Grade: A-
Art Grade: A
Packaging Grade: A
Text/Translation Grade: A
Age Rating: T+
Released By: Viz Signature
Release Date: August 15, 2017