Normally I would be saving this for a future Gundam-themed month, but I'm currently just shy of the midway point of Gundam Wing thanks to a groupwatch with some of the Wave Motion Cannon boys and I'm ready for a good rant so this prequel will have to do.
GUNDAM WING: EPISODE ZERO (Shin Kido Senki Gundam W EPISODE ZERO), written by Katsuyuki Sumisawa & art by Akira Kanbe, based on the Mobile Suit Gundam series created by Yoshiyuki Tomino & Hajime Yatate. First published in 1997 and first published in North America in 2002.
Before AC 195 and the events of Operation Meteor, there are still stories to tell. There are the stories of five young boys each suffering through their own personal tragedies, as well as that of a lost princess. Their pasts not only shaped their appearances and minds, but led to chance encounters with other notable figures from their future and eventually to the Gundams they would someday pilot.
Unlike the last time, now I have seen quite a bit of Gundam Wing, and unless it somehow straightens up in the second half I can say with some confidence that it honestly kind of sucks. I'm personally baffled as to how so many of my peers could fall in love with this messy, baffling, overstuffed plot and a cast that seems mostly comprised of assholes. No amount of novelty and (admittedly rather good) production design could make up for it!
Anyway, I'm not here to talk about Gundam Wing itself, but this collection of non-canonical prequel stories. Like most prequels, it doesn't really work as a stand-alone piece. Without knowing who these characters are or what the deal with this setting is, these stories won't have the least bit of impact. Hell, I know who these kids are and I still couldn't care about most of these stories,and only 60% of the time was it due to the character in question being an insufferable, emotionless asshole. In most cases, it just confirmed that these characters were always awful. The only satisfaction I got out of it was seeing that not even Wufei's precious wife couldn't stand him, and that's only because Wufei is the worst goddamn character in the entire series.
The problems don't end there. These stories also rely a lot on dramatic convenience and cameos from most of the supporting cast. At best, they stretch credulity; at worst, they outright break canon. Like with the main cast, unless you know who these characters are and care about their stories, these appearances mean nothing. They also try to answer a lot of question that I can't imagine anyone but the most obsessive Gundam Wing fangirls were wondering. Why does Duo Maxwell wear his hair in a braid? Why does Quatre wear goggles all the time? Where did Heero Yuy's name come from? How did Treize meet his wife? WHO THE HELL CARES?
It all concludes in that same vein with an extremely brief side story set after the events of Endless Waltz. Having never seen it, I had no idea what was going on. Based on what I've seen here, though, I'm sure that even if I had it would have been pointless and dull. You'd be better off searching for old Gundam Wing fanfic than to dig this relic up.
Well, it's certainly an improvement over the last Wing manga I looked at. Everyone is generally on model, althought the faces tend to be a little rounder than their animated counterparts. That's pretty much all the compliments I have for it, though. The faces are stiff and virtually copy-pasted and what brief moments of action can be found aren't handled any better. Backgrounds are largely avoided and the page composition is frequently cluttered. Then as the final insult to injury, this book is flipped.
There's a full time of the AC continuity, postscripts from both the writer and artist, and a brief collection of character sketches.
Episode Zero is just that: a big, fat, boring, pointless, mildly ugly zero. Unless the upcoming rerelease has you desperate for every bit of Gundam Wing backstory that can be found, this is best avoided.
This volume was published by Viz. It is currently out of print.