Reviewby George Phillips
Gundam Wing: Ground Zero
Manga Vol. 1-4
When the War is Over... What Do Warriors Do?
With the conclusion of the War Between the Colonies, Heero and his allies are left with no reason for existence. Both the Colonies and Earth have rejected war as Relena Peacecraft leads humanity towards an age of true pacifism. However, not all is right with the world. As Heero returns from a basketball game, he thinks back to an encounter with Relena. "I've never lived in a world without war," Heero says, "But I thought... that maybe I'd try to live in this one."
Snapping out of his daze with a feeling of slight depression or emptiness, Heero receives an e-mail from a mysterious "Mr. O" stating Wing Zero has been stolen! Heero quickly runs to check out the hangar, and is shocked to see Zero missing. "Normal humans don't have the skill to pull this off," Heero thinks. Contained in the e-mail was a rendezvous point, and Heero decides he must go to meet the thief of Zero.
Volumes 1 through 3 follow the strange encounters that await Heero on the abandoned Colony he was directed to. Volume 4 shares many similarities with shoujo manga; no action, but lots of character interaction, and a bit of romantic humor.
Many fans of Gundam Wing ask themselves, "What happened between the Gundam Wing TV series and Endless Waltz?". Gundam Wing: Ground Zero (released by Viz) tries to explain the short time period between the TV series and the OAV series. Unfortunately, the answer Ground Zero provides might not be the one fans expect.
When I received this manga in the mail, I was anticipating something similar to Gundam Wing; a good amount of action, a large amount of talking, and crucial character development. Ground Zero did not disappoint me on any of these predictions. However, the radically different storyline in Ground Zero left me disappointed. Gundam Wing TV drove slowly but constantly towards a goal. Ground Zero shifts gears rapidly, rushing ahead at times, and slowing to a crawl at others.
Physically, the manga is of pretty good quality; the paper is solid and the ink doesn't fade. Since the manga itself primarily uses black and white, it's important that these colors be kept distinct as much as possible. Ground Zero does this very well; the transfer from the original Japanese manga is excellent. My only gripe with the physical condition of the manga is that the edges of the pages seem cut off. When the manga was enlarged to fit the standard comic book format, it appears it was over-enlarged, resulting in some letters being printed off the edge of the page.
The artwork of Ground Zero is very similar to the television series. If you enjoyed the character designs from Gundam Wing, you will enjoy the artwork of Ground Zero. Since Ground Zero occurs less than a year after the end of the war, none of the characters have changed styles significantly. At most, Relena dresses a bit more maturely, but Heero and "the gang" still wear the same clothes they wore during the war.
In the first volume there are several color pages of the Gundam pilots. These pages include details about the five pilots, including their names in Japanese. Although the front page of this manga states the art has been reversed for publication in English, the Japanese kana has been re-flipped so it can be read properly. Included on these color pages are descriptions of the Gundam pilots. The information is broad and vague, but helps quickly explain the characters to an audience that may not be familiar with them.
Ground Zero contains a decent amount of action scenes, including gunfights and hand-to-hand combat. There isn't any Mobile Suit combat, although Wufei's Gundam makes a brief appearance in one scene. Although not quite as plentiful as I was expecting, people who enjoy fast-paced fighting shouldn't be too disappointed with the first three volumes. In these volumes, action scenes are drawn and paced well, moving the plot along at a reasonable rate.
Regardless of time or location, someone always seems to be talking in Ground Zero. From the opening page, narration and speech flow through this manga. During the fight scenes and the romantic interludes, someone is always explaining a philosophy or describing their actions. At no point throughout the four Volumes does silence reign.
Although Gundam Wing: Ground Zero is a good manga in its own right, when placed into the Gundam Wing universe it feels a little "out-of-place". The storyline doesn't progress the same way as the TV series did, and the characters don't interact in quite the same way. Trowa has significantly changed from the stoic Trowa of Gundam Wing TV, and although Wufei has begun recessing into the philosophical shell that leads him to his role in Endless Waltz, he isn't there yet. This shift in the characters actions is understandable, but initially felt drastic when I first read through the manga.
Overall : B
+ The best possible telling of the time between the TV series and Endless Waltz.
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