The third volume of the Fullmetal Alchemist 3-in-1 releases combines Volumes Seven, Eight, and Nine of the Fullmetal Alchemist manga into one volume.

Fullmetal Alchemist Omnibus Volume Three
Written by: Hiromu Arakawa
Publisher: Square Enix
English Publisher: VIZ Media
Release Date: October 4, 2011

Volume Seven begins with Ed leaving Izumi’s place to go to Central to get his yearly alchemist assessment done. While he’s gone, Al is kidnapped by a mysterious group of people. Al comes to learn that the leader of the group is a Homunculus named Greed, and that his underlings are chimera. This surprises Al, since there have supposedly been no successful experiments to create chimera.

When Izumi discovers that Al has been kidnapped and determines where he is, she launches a rescue operation with her husband. There are some wonderful action panels during this portion of the story, and we get to see Izumi be the badass alchemist that she is. But everyone is surprised when Al asks Izumi to wait to rescue him until Ed returns, because he’s hoping to get information from Greed in exchange for information that only Ed can provide.

While Ed is in Central, he has a chance meeting with King Bradley, who simply passes Ed’s assessment without having him do anything. When Ed heads back to Izumi’s place, he is followed by Bradley and Alex Armstrong. When they learn about Al being kidnapped and Bradley hears about who the kidnappers are, he gets the military involved. Volume Seven culminates with Ed battling with Greed, while Bradley and the military forces begin taking down anyone associated with the kidnappers.

There’s also a section featuring Scar while he’s in the slums and encountering his former master. Unfortunately, their reunion is short lived when Yoki tips off bounty hunters to Scar’s whereabouts and Scar uses his alchemy to kill them. To atone for what he has done, he leaves the slums and forces Yoki to come with him. Outside of this scene, there’s only one scene of Scar in all of Volume Eight, and he doesn’t appear at all in Volume Nine. But considering what Volume Nine focuses on, it makes sense for Scar to not make an appearance.

Volume Seven has a strong emphasis on Greed, so the reader gets to know more about one of the Homunculi. It’s been a while since the reader’s seen any of the Homunculi for any real length of time, so it’s nice to be reminded that these characters do indeed exist. Greed’s motivation for kidnapping Al has to do with his desire to find a secret to immortality, and he thinks that having your soul attached to an inanimate object like the armor is a key to what he desires. Greed certainly fits all the traits associated with the sin that his name is attached to, and he quickly becomes an interesting character.

The volume also has a bit of an emphasis on King Bradley as well. Some of his actions are starting to look a little suspicious, which leads the reader to believe that there could be more to him than meets the eye.

At the end of Volume Seven, there is a side story included about Second Lieutenant Jean Havoc going to meet Alex Armstrong’s younger sister. This is an amusing little story, which I had already seen in the original Fullmetal Alchemist anime series. Sadly, this side story wasn’t used when Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood was produced. Which is a shame, really, since this does kind of tie in with a plot point that appears later in this omnibus release.

The beginning of Volume Eight sees Greed and his minions fighting with King Bradley and his forces, with Al stuck in the middle of the battlefield. But something important happens during this battle that causes Al to regain the memory of the time his soul became attached to the suit of armor. I liked how, at the beginning of Volume Seven, we’re given a hint as to how Al could potentially regain this memory, and that it was ultimately what we got in that hint that brought this about. This was a nice bit of foreshadowing.

Barry the Chopper also makes a return in this volume when he encounters Hawkeye in Central. After going through intensive questioning with Mustang and Falman and revealing some information that they hadn’t previously known, Barry ends up in Falman’s custody. Poor Falman is trapped in his apartment and not able to go anywhere in order to keep an eye on Barry.

Four new characters from the country of Xing are also introduced in this volume: May Chang with her little panda Xiaomei and Lin Yao and his two companions. Of these characters, May Chang only has a small role in this volume, while Lin Yao has a much bigger role. Lin Yao runs into Ed and Al while they’re in Rush Valley to get Ed’s automail repaired, and they seem to hit it off. However, things turn for the worst when Lin Yao starts asking about immortality and he believes Ed is hiding something from him. Lin Yao’s two companions become involved, and this leads to a chase and a fight sequence in Rush Valley.

This volume turns out to be a rather important one for the Fullmetal Alchemist manga series. Some important information is revealed about the Homunculi, Al goes through a major change, and the reader also learns that the country of Xing exists and that it has its own form of alchemy, which is displayed by May Chang during her brief appearance in this volume. Also, the secret that’s revealed about King Bradley really changes the reader’s perception of not just him as a character, but also his motivations for why he’s doing the things he’s been doing up until this point.

Volume Eight also includes a short story that serves as a prelude to the Fullmetal Alchemist and the Broken Angel PS2 game. If you’ve played the game, then this might be of interest to you.  Otherwise, it’s a short story that most readers can safely skip and not miss anything.

The beginning of Volume Nine sees Ed, Al, Winry and Lin Yao leaving Rush Valley and heading to Central. Meanwhile, in Central, Mustang is doing some research to see if he can find any clues toward who murdered Maes Hughes. Unfortunately, Sheska unknowingly provides information to the Homunculi about Mustang’s research when one of them is disguised as a superior officer.

A major plot point takes place in Central before Ed and the others arrive: 2nd Lieutenant Maria Ross is named the prime suspect in Hughes’ death. Unfortunately, the military is ignoring anything that could prove her innocence, since it ties back to the Fifth Laboratory that no one was supposed to know about. The Homunculi have done such a good job of framing her that it looks as if she’ll easily be found guilty of the crime.

When Ed and the others arrive in Central and encounter Mustang, they ask him about Hughes. He claims that Hughes left the military and moved to the country with his family, because he knows that the Elric brothers will feel guilty if they find out Hughes was killed because he was looking into the Philosopher’s Stone. Unfortunately, with Ross’ arrest making in into the paper, the brothers and Winry find out the truth of what happened in the worst possible way.

One of the most memorable sections of Volume Nine takes place when Winry, Ed, and Al go to visit Gracia Hughes after learning about Maes’ death. One of the poignant moments in this section is when Winry first arrives at the house and knocks on the door. It’s answered by Hughes’ young daughter, Elicia, who exclaims, “Daddy!” When she sees Winry, her happy expression crumbles over the course of three panels. Those panels were such a heartbreaking thing to see.

It’s also a compelling moment when Ed tells Gracia about Maes helping them learn about the Philosopher’s Stone and that he was probably killed for learning too much. The mixture of emotions that appear in this scene helps to make it a powerful one. At this point, Ed and Al are considering ending their search to find a way to get Al’s body back, and Gracia makes it quite clear that her husband’s death would be in vain if they stopped now. This scene ends with another poignant panel, this one of Ed looking incredibly sad when he’s leaving the Hughes’ house.

If this wasn’t enough, Mustang gets a couple of major plots points in this volume as well. The first sees Mustang getting involved after Ross escapes from prison with the help of Barry the Chopper. The orders were given that if she was found, that the military was authorized to “shoot to kill.” Mustang uses his alchemy to burn Ross, to the point that her body isn’t easily identifiable. Ed and Al stumble onto this scene, and after their experience at the Hughes’ house, let’s just say that they don’t take this situation well.

For Mustang’s second plot point, he commands his men as they find themselves fighting against Barry the Chopper’s real body which has had the soul of a lab animal put into it. The Homunculi have sniffed out where Barry is after he helped Ross, and they have sent his original body to take him down since he knows too much. The volume ends in the middle of the battle with Barry’s real body, with a cliffhanger of Hawkeye looking like she could be in some serious trouble.

Of the three volumes that appear in Fullmetal Alchemist Omnibus Volume Three, I thought that the ninth volume was the strongest. While there were the expected action sequences, there was also quite a focus on drama that packed quite an emotional punch. The other two volumes in this omnibus aren’t bad by any means, but Volume Nine was one of the strongest volumes in the original release of the Fullmetal Alchemist manga.

Even though I’m already familiar with the story from watching the Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood anime, I still enjoy the story and have many of the same reactions to it that I did the first time I encountered these plot points and plot progressions. These omnibus releases continue to showcase Hiromu Arakawa’s ability to tell a compelling story that readers want to keep coming back to and experience multiple times.

If you’re a fan of the Fullmetal Alchemist manga and haven’t purchased the series yet for your collection, your main options for getting it at this point are through these paperback omnibus releases that first came out in the early 2010’s, or the hardcover releases that have been coming out since 2018. Since I already purchased the first paperback omnibus volume around a decade or so ago, I am continuing my collection with the paperback omnibus editions to try to maintain some kind of sense of consistency in my collection.

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