I have a special fondness for the Metroid franchise and basically every game in it, except for that one atrocity committed by Team Ninja in 2010. Why Nintendo thought that the group known for their jiggle physics would write a female character respectfully is beyond me. Getting back on topic, in the early 2000s, before that thing stained the franchise, there was a sixteen chapter manga written by Tazawa Kouji and drawn by Ishikawa Kenji. Was it a preview of the horrible thing that was to come to the franchise or is it a worthy part of the lore?
We open with chibi Samus on a mining colony with her parents. The Chozo come seeking the rare material they’re gathering but they get turned down because all they have has already been scheduled to be delivered. The Chozo leave peaceably, but the space pirates promptly show up, led by Ridley. The Chozo return seeing that everything has been razed and everyone is dead save one small child, Samus. They decide to take her to their world, Zebes, and infuse her with Chozo DNA for science. Actually, it’s because her frail human body won’t be able to survive on Zebes for long. As she gets older they help her hone her superhuman abilities and train her to protect the peace in their stead. They also gift her with her iconic power suit. Eventually, she separates from them at their urging and works with the federation, at least for a time.
There are some plot details in this that Team Ninja re-purposed for their pile of excrement. The difference is that in here they’re interesting and handled pretty well, whereas in that it was the exact opposite. Honestly, the biggest problem in this manga is the pacing. They skip over and rush through quite a bit. There are times where they really do have to for the story and towards the end they skim over a lot just because they’re covering material from Super Metroid but there are other times where it feels like a lazy way to change Samus’ character without actually having to show her develop. To be fair, there aren’t many moments like that and they do show the impetuses behind her changes even if they don’t show the changes themselves, but there are a couple. On the positive side, the narrative is really compelling and there are a lot of good moments. The world building is superb. The story also manages to keep its dramatic tension well in spite of the fact that you know basically how things are going to go down if you’re familiar with the games.
One thing this manga does spectacularly is fleshing out Samus’ character. They also show her development out of naivete and into a true warrior and all around badass. There are some cool side characters too. Particularly Samus’ former partners from when she was in the federation, Kreatz & Mauk. You also get some insight into Mother Brain and Ridley.
Ishikawa’s artwork is mostly really good. There are some points where the action doesn’t flow all that smoothly (not many but some) and there are moments where the federation ships look like boots for some reason but it’s mostly well done with good action sequences, expressive faces and really interesting character designs. The artwork on the various Metroid creatures is really good and you can tell that he either knows the games well or at least did his research so that he could make them mesh with their game portrayals.
There’s a young girl who acts a bit like she has a one-sided crush on Samus but there’s really not any romance in this manga. Which is good since Metroid doesn’t need any of that.
This manga is actually really good. Whether you’re a fan of the games it’s based off of or not, it’s a compelling sci-fi story with interesting characters, and strong action sequences. It is better if you’re a fan of the games, but it’s not required. For myself, I give this one a solid 8/10.