GundamReviews

Gundam F90 Vol. 1

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Summary

In UC 0120, the transport ship Kobayashi Maru is destroyed by an unknown force while en route to Side 3. Three days later, Earth Federation Forces test pilots Def Stallion and Sid Amber perform maneuvers with the Strategic Naval Research Institute’s new mobile suit, the Gundam F90. When Def complains about the Gundam F90’s poor ventilation, Sid tells him there’s nothing that can be done because the military has already selected it as their next generation mobile suit. Def says he doesn’t want to be a mass murderer, but Sid doesn’t want to hear it. ST-Gun pilot Navi advises them not to cut the chatter because they’re already late. On the 13th Autonomous Mobile Fleet flagship Admiral Tianem, Lt. Bosch and the captain meet with One Year War veteran Job John, who now works for SNRI and is the leader of the F90 experimental team. Job asks Bosch if he doesn’t like the F90, and he explains that he likes the high performance and small size. Job explains that the goal of Professor Guttenvigier is to have mobile suits return to their original construction function before they were used for war. Job says that the increase in efficiency and decrease in size makes them better than previous mobile suits. In space, Def, Sid and Navi arrive at the test site, so Sid and Def begin an acceleration test of their F90 units. As the test continues, Job explains to Bosch that the F90s are equipped with special processors to assist the pilot, and that Sid’s Unit 2 is potentially three times faster than a normal mobile suit. Def and Sid continue to maneuver and enter an asteroid belt. Navi attempts to contact Sid to cancel the test because of irregularities with his engine, but she can’t reach him due to a sudden increase in Minovsky particle density. In the asteroid belt, Def and Sid attempt to contact Navi, but their communications are also jammed. Suddenly, an old Zeon Rick Dom approaches and opens fire on them. Sid dodges, but a Gelgoog attacks from behind and uses its naginata to slice into his backpack. A Zaku II appears on the scene and charges at Def.

A Zaku tosses a wire grappler at Sid’s Unit 2, while a Gelgoog grabs it from behind and the Rick Dom destroys the main camera. Def tells Sid to escape, but Sid says that he’s out of fuel and that the escape system hasn’t been completed yet. Instead, he gets out of the cockpit shoots the Rick Dom with a pistol, damaging its monoeye. A Zaku attempts to grapple onto Unit 1, but Def dodges and punches the Zaku’s back. Another Zaku opens fire with its machine gun, and Def has no long-range weapons of his own. Suddenly, the Admiral Tianem arrives and the Zeon mobile suits escape with Unit 2. Even with the loss of Unit 2, Bosch thinks to himself that they still got good data. Later, the crew reports to an EFF command center at Side 4’s Frontier I colony. A question comes up if the C.A. (Char Aznable) AI system failed. As the EFF officials debate the issue, the point of pilot punishment comes up. The meeting is interrupted by a transmission from EFF headquarters, and the pilots are dismissed. Def is relieved, but Navi blames them for ruining her future. Sid hugs Navi and tries to comfort her, but she slaps him and storms off. In the Admiral Tianem‘s mobile suit hangar, Bosch tells Def and Sid that their group has new orders. He states that they will be mobilizing as the 13th Autonomous Mobile Fleet, with orders to attack the Oldsmobile Army’s base on Mars. Their mission is to recover Unit 2 and destroy the Zeon remnants. Def asks about their punishment, and Bosch says that Job has already taken care of it.

Later, fleet commander Novotny addresses the crew on the Admiral Tianem. Because Mars is more than 5 million kilometers from their present location, the journey will take about four months. Although there are resupply ships in the fleet, the fleet will also rendezvous with supply ships returning from Jupiter. Some of the officers don’t take the situation seriously and think that defeating the Oldsmobiles and their outdated suits will be easy. Novotny asks Bosch about the pilots’ experience, and Bosch wants to use the trip time to test the F90’s equipment. Def and Sid discuss what happened to Unit 2’s systems, and Navi reminds them to get in their normal suits before they’re late. Def complains about the amount of test equipment inside Unit 1’s cockpit, but a technician explains they want to examine everything. Def launches in Unit 1, followed by Navi’s ST-Gun and some Jegans. Def is amazed by the F90’s tuned-up speed, as well as the A.R. (Amuro Ray) AI program. Def wonders if the A.R. program is somehow predicting an enemy’s moves. Sid shows up with a Geara Doga Custom, and Def shows off by speeding past him. Navi yells at them for screwing around and beginning the battle training early, but Sid pretends like he can’t hear her. Sid catches up to Def, but Def speeds off again and appears behind Sid. Sid wonders how Def did that, and Def explains that he’s taking advantage of the Geara Doga’s blind spot and Unit 1’s new engines. After returning to the ship, Def begins to apologize to Bosch while Sid blurts out that suits with Zeon technology are better. Bosch begins to reminisce about piloting a GM III and helping the v Gundam push Axis away from the Earth during the Second Neo Zeon War. As Bosch and Sid become consumed with their conversation, Def slips away. Navi prods Def and asks him if he’s only happy when piloting a mobile suit. She says something is wrong, and he tells her he wishes he could forget the past as easily as Sid does. He’s also bothered that with the F90 series, a greater emphasis is placed on the specs than his skills. Suddenly, the ship rocks after hitting a rail mine and goes to battle stations. On the bridge, Bosch asks Novotny if there was any damage, but Novotny tells him it barely scratched anything. Novotny believes it was a random mine, because the chance of being hit by an enemy mine are small.

Two days later, the F90 is outfitted with A-Type equipment. With its many hardpoints, the F90 is able to change equipment for various mission roles. Navi asks Def and Sid to come with her, and she says that the rail mine incident seemed too random. Navi thinks that if the Oldsmobiles went through all that trouble to plant that mine, they should’ve made it a bigger explosion. Def realizes that the enemy knows their location, and Navi agrees and adds that Novotny won’t listen to her. Sid wonders if there’s a traitor among them, but if so, why didn’t the Oldsmobiles attack directly? Navi says they won’t have to, because in essence the fleet has already been destroyed. Because the ship was hit by the mine, it caused a delay, which means they won’t rendezvous on time with the unmanned supply ships or the supply ships from Jupiter. Def realizes that if something happens on Mars, they won’t be able to get back to Earth. When the ship begins to decelerate, Navi questions the decision, and Novotny says they can make up the delayed time. Thirty-four days later, the Admiral Tianem enters Mars orbit and receives the date from an unmanned observer craft. Navi reports that the gas covering the Olympus Mons mountain is a smokescreen. The data differs from before, so Novotny concludes the observer was sabotaged. Bosch reports on the status of landing vessel preparations and asks if they plan to just use brute force. Novotny says the Oldsmobile can’t resist and haven’t raised Minovsky particle levels, so they’re probably frightened. Navi warns Def and Sid not to disobey orders again because this time they’re entering a real battle and not training. Novotny addresses the crew and tells them to attack their designated targets upon landing. He notes that this will be the first battle in history on a foreign planet, so he expects victory. Novotny believes that the volcanic activity on Olympus Mons will probably bury the Oldsmobiles. Suddenly, the Minovsky particle density rises at a rapid rate. Four RF Adzam mobile armors attack and begin sinking ships in the fleet. Novotny orders the mobile suits from the landing ship to launch so that the Oldsmobiles don’t capture the F90. Bosch pulls a gun on him and explains that the goal is to capture entire fleet. Several men in Zeon uniforms take control of the bridge. A gunfight erupts, but Novotny orders his men to cease fire. Two Adzams close in on the landing ship that Def, Sid and Navi are on. The ship isn’t very maneuverable, and since the suits are all strapped in, Def suggests descending to Mars. The Adzams latch onto the landing ship, but Navi takes control and begins re-entry. Bosch calls the surface with orders to capture the F90 because the Adzams won’t survive re-entry.

As the ship lands on Mars, Def dreams of seeing the Earth up close for the first time as a child. He wakes up and asks their location, so Navi explains that because of the Adzams, their trajectory was altered, placing them about 800 kilometers south of Olympus Mons’ outer crater. Def asks if they’ve been able to contact the Admiral Tianem, but Navi explains that the Minovsky particle density is still too high, so they’re completely isolated. Def apologizes, but Navi says it’s ok because she’s also a pilot and agrees with his decision. Sid rushes into the compartment and announces that the Oldsmobiles are approaching. Outside, several Rick Doms, Gelgoogs and Goufs riding Dodai Customs close in. In space, one of the battleships requests help, and Bosch orders his men to sink any ship that causes trouble. Three ships are destroyed in the attack, and another crashes into the Martian moon Phobos, which causes rock fragments to hit the Admiral Tianem. Novotny uses the opportunity to escape. The Oldsmobile suits surround the landing ship and find only mobile suit footprints heading away from the ship. One of the Oldsmobile pilots realizes too late what’s happening, and the landing ship explodes, destroying the Oldsmobile suits. Def, Sid and Navi have escaped and are about to relax for a moment, but a Gelgoog Cannon and RF Gyan open fire, blowing the right leg and left arm off of Navi’s ST-Gun. Def rushes in to punch the Gyan, but it dodges the attack. The Gyan pushes Sid aside attacks Def while the Gelgoog Cannon attempts to capture Navi. Def smashes the Gyan’s head and runs off to help Navi, but the Gyan grabs his foot with a heat rod. Def pulls out his beam saber and slices the Gyan to pieces. Unfortunately, the Gelgoog Cannon escapes on a Dodai Kai with Navi. On the damaged Admiral Tianem, an officer reports the level of damage to Novotny.

On the surface, Def and Sid attach the D-Type heavy assault equipment to the F90. Def is strangely calm and wonders if he’s gotten used to being a soldier, because he always hated the idea of being a soldier. Elsewhere, Navi is taken to the Oldsmobile base, where she spots what looks like a strange power plant. The base shakes, and Gelgoog pilot Bailey explains that the power plant is actually their ultimate weapon, the Olympus Cannon. Using the pressure from the mountain’s expelled stones, the cannon can fire a shell capable of reaching Earth. Navi is shocked when Bosch enters the room and says that the cannon is the end result of the Zeon hiding for 40 years. With 320 seconds left until the cannon fires, the Admiral Tianem‘s mobile suits make landfall and attack the Oldsmobile base. A Gouf moves in to destroy a Jegan, but Def arrives and blasts it with his cannons. Def and Sid enter the base, but Sid comes under attack and his Geara Doga is heavily damaged and destroyed. On the Admiral Tianem, Novotny is informed that there’s strange volcanic activity inside Olympus Mons, but Novotny said it doesn’t matter because the mountain will soon be destroyed. Novotny authorizes a nuclear assault and declares that the EFF will never lose to the Zeon. Def and a Jegan pilot named Eric go deeper into the base, but Eric’s Jegan is destroyed by a red F90.

Def dismisses the Gundam as just a stolen and tweaked F90, but it moves surprisingly quickly when it dodges his fire. Bosch says he doesn’t recall teaching Def such sloppy techniques, and Def is shocked that Bosch is the traitor. In another part of the base, the Olympus Cannon fires its shell at Earth. Def asks Bosch if he planned the conspiracy, and Bosch tells him it was a decades-long plan to infiltrate Earth. Def accuses Bosch of murdering Sid, and Bosch says a pilot is supposed to defend himself when attacked. Bosch slams into Def and tells him to surrender so he doesn’t have to kill him, but Def refuses. The Admiral Tianem‘s crew object to Novotny’s plan and say they don’t want to be sacrificed by the EFF. Suddenly, the massive shell from the Olympus Cannon approaches at high speed and destroys the ship. In the base, Bosch attacks from behind, and Def realizes his weapons are too powerful to use at close range. Bosch quips that his C.A. system seems to be better for fighting than Def’s A.R. system. Def fights back, and in an explosion both Gundams lose an arm. Def asks Bosch why he did it, and Bosch says there’s no use explaining it to someone who doesn’t understand the war. He says he simply wanted the Gundam’s power. In another part of the base, the Zeon officers begin to retreat and let Navi go free. As Def fights, he realizes that the A.R. system seems to be reading Bosch’s movements. Bosch tells Def he must have thought all his fighting now was his own skill, but it was really the Gundam. Bosch says he saw the light of the Nu Gundam and vowed to one day get the power of the Gundam, the devil’s power. Def slashes at Unit 2’s legs, and Bosch destroys the head of Unit 1. Navi hurries through the base to find everyone and comes up Sid and his damaged Geara Doga. Def declares that whatever is happening, he’s using his own power. Bosch attacks from above, and Def fires his beam rifle straight up at Bosch. Later, Navi and Sid watch the explosion of the Oldsmobile from a safe distance. They’re both surprised when they see Def and the damaged Unit 1 emerge from the ruins. They return to space in a landing ship, and Def tells Navi that her eyes always looked familiar to him. Now, he remembers that he saw that look once in a battlefield picture of Amuro Ray, the pilot of the original Gundam during the One Year War.

Commentary

This manga was produced as a prequel tie-in to the Gundam F91 movie, and I actually enjoy it more. The story also bears some similarity to Gundam 0083 with the Zeon stealing a prototype Gundam, but I also liked this story more. In most Gundam series, Mars is all but ignored. Here, we see the Zeon have been hiding out for decades and building a secret base at Olympus Mons. This manga does a good job of showing the scale of mobile suit advancement with the older Zeon suits almost towering over the newer, compact F90. Def makes a pretty interesting hero: he’s a test pilot who doesn’t like the idea of becoming a soldier, but he fights because he has to. I didn’t exactly buy Bosch’s motivation for becoming a traitor and joining the Zeon. If he was so amazed by what the v Gundam did in Char’s Counterattack, there was no reason to wait 30 years to plot and steal a Gundam. He could’ve already used one in the EFF. If the final battle between Def and Bosch looks familiar, that’s because their Gundams feature AI systems based on the combat data of Char Aznable and Amuro Ray. In the end, we see that Bosch and Def end up recreating the final battle between Amuro and Char in the One Year War, down to Bosch attacking from above and Def performing the famous last shot. Another One Year War connection pops up in the form of Job John, former pilot on the White Base and now an old man working for SNRI. In another unrelated reference, the Kobayashi Maru that is destroyed at the beginning is a clear nod to Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Although this is a one-shot story, it would be nice to see more manga that develop Mars and other parts of the Earth Sphere.

Overall Rating
4/5

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