Just when he thought life was returning to normal, Heero Yuy receives a cryptic message from a person claiming to have stolen the Wing Zero and requesting a rendezvous at a remote space station. There he finds the station deserted except for his fellow Gundam pilots all of whom have received similar messages. But only a handful of people are capable of piloting the Wing Zero... As tension and distrust grows, Heero is pitted against his comrades with mind control, assassination, and a loaded gun thrown into the standoff.
I'm pretty sure this was the first manga I ever bought. I'm about to sell it now, along with some of my other old stuff, so I thought I'd take one last look...
STORY - Ground Zero is one version of the events that take place between Gundam Wing and Endless Waltz; specifically, it illustrates the events leading up to the pilots' decision to send their Gundams into the sun. Honestly, the events in this short volume are pretty silly. Funny thing though -- the faulty logic behind their actions and the way things play out in this remind me over and over again of the
fact that these characters are actually fifteen year-old boys -- something that was easily overlooked when I was fourteen or fifteen myself. There's also a chapter on Relena's life in Ground Zero with emphasis on her relationship with Heero. Though a little cliche, it actually did feel a little less over-the-top than the chapters with the boys.
At times, the stories in this volume try to present themselves as deep and philosophical (it's a story about war, after all, even if it's just the aftermath), but looking back at it now, the real depths of the topics they choose are hardly explored past the surface. A lot of rhetorical questions are used, but never really answered. As filler material in between the series and the OAV, it might be interesting to know exactly what went on, but once you read it, it isn't all that interesting after all.
CHARACTERS - The characters take after their series' personalities pretty well, and I had a fairly easy imagining this sequence of events animated. As far as their pre-established characters go, their dialogue and reactions were pretty spot on. Because the characters' personalities aren't really explored beyond what was already there, they didn't grow from what they were in the series (even though it feels like this should be a prime opportunity for it). Because Heero and Relena get more spotlight time, they ended up feeling the most human... especially Relena (it seems that it's much easier to tolerate Relena in the manga than in the anime because you are only reading her dialogue, not listening to her stumble over it). Meanwhile, Quatre and Trowa are just mysterious, benevolent figures, Duo is an endearing idiot, and Wufei gets so little attention that he may as well not be there at all.
ART - Reku Fugunagi did a pretty good job capturing Gundam Wing's style. Many of the panels can feasibly be toned lineart for the anime -- albeit with much more detail. There's a very 90's feel to it too. The chibi style she uses is pretty generic, but definitely cute. Her proportions are hilariously accurate sometimes; once again, I was forced to recognize that these characters are only fifteen and their bodies are reflective of that (information in the front of the book describes all the characters as 5'3", except Trowa who is 5'5"! So short!). There are some really neat perspective and dynamic shots in Ground Zero, but some of the sudden actions are pretty difficult to read. There are still a few panels where I don't understand what's happening at all, and unfortunately, some of those panels are kind of important. There's also that occasional finger that seems to be dislocated... but for the most part, Fugunagi's art is fun to look at, especially the handful of colored pages in the front, and I'd venture to say that that may be the best part of this whole book.
OTHER - Ground Zero was licensed and published by Viz in 2001, so it's definitely an example of their earlier products. The book is flipped so it reads left-to-right, and all of the sound effects have been translated. I found the English sound effects to be pretty distracting, and some of them seem pretty inappropriate for the action they're associated with. For example, "whonk" for a knee to the stomach? The translation seems smooth enough for the most part, or at least, it matches up with the general feel of the translation in the anime. Some of the typesetting looked a little haphazard and ran a bit close to the edges, especially for non-dialogue and non-SFX text, but ah well. What can ya do?
OVERALL - It's a decent enough book. The story is sloppy and not very well thought out, but it isn't completely unbelievable considering the rest of the series. The characters are about the same, so if you hated them in the anime, you'll hate them here, and if you liked them okay, then you'll be fine. The art is nice. Nothing breathtaking, but it's nice. Viz did an okay job. Ground Zero is one of three prominent filler stories for the space between Gundam Wing and Endless Waltz (the other two being Blind Target and Battlefield of Pacifists, both of which I intend to review also). Of the three though, it's the shortest and the weakest (this might be because Fugunagi is the only writer of a filler manga that did not work on the script to the TV series). If you really, really love Gundam Wing and are curious about all the stuff that might have happened in the one year gap, it might be worth checking out, but otherwise, I wouldn't bother.
Any person who has ever wanted to see the G-boys in a yaoi, this is about as close as you will legitimately get. Many of the drawings Reku Fuyunagi has created of Heero and the others makes them seem even feminine than usual. Yes, this is possible. When I read it in middle school I found myself extremely uncomfortable. This was while I was still shedding my ignorant homophobic shell. Now, of coarse, I'd kill to get into Quatre's bed.
Plot wise, it is interesting. It's about how the pilots, especially Heero, deal with life in a now weapon free
world. It's the age old question, "what do soldiers do when the war ends." It's extremely thought provoking. You also get to see a little affection between Heero and Relena, no, not Duo sadly...
Ground Zero does not provide you with any amazing mobile suit battles. However, if you are a fan of the anime or, rather, just the characters in general, you'll enjoy seeing them in a new situation, and acting rather silly at points. Basically, it's worth picking up but don't get your hopes up.