The end of the previous volume promised us a showdown between longtime rivals Io Fleming and Darryl Lorenz. We don’t quite get that here as the first half of the volume gives us a still-thrilling encounter between the two as Fleming presses his advantage as hard as he can. It’s only the unbreakable determination of Darryl and his support team which keeps the pilot alive long enough for Claudia to show up with the Psycho Zaku. Io has his own backup on the way, in the form of Bianca and the Trust squadron. It seems like it’s going to come down to who can get their leader resupplied first; that is, unless someone does something so reckless in the heat of battle that it completely changes the dynamic of the conflict.
Vol. 14 shows that even if tenosynovitis has robbed mangaka Yasuo Ohtagaki of his ability to draw fine detail, he still remains a hell of a storyteller. Not only is the art improved from the previous volume, it boasts some of the most gripping scenes of the series to date. Io’s rampage to get Darryl at the beginning is just the tip of the iceberg as it segues into Claudia’s mad dash to keep the Psycho Zaku away from her former lover. After that the action shifts to outside the base as what seems like a figurative exercise in deck-clearing becomes a sadly literal one for some members of the cast.
“Thunderbolt” has always been a little uneven over the course of its run. When it’s firing on all cylinders, as it is here, it’s as thrilling as anything you’ll see in the “Gundam” universe. I will admit that I’m a little disappointed to find out that the story won’t be wrapping up here as I was expecting it to. We’ve just reached the end of Act 2 here. Based on the quality of this volume, however, the thought of an Act 3 to this story definitely has promise.