As Volume 8 opens, Greed and his chimerae continue to be wiped out by military forces led by King Bradley, who appears to be a Homunculus himself. Is even Greed's carbon "Ultimate Shield" up to the task of defeating Bradley's flashing swords and "Ultimate Eye"? And which side will Ed and Al be on as they see all this blood being spilled around them? Meanwhile, Mustang and his crew get a break into their investigation into secret military experiments as they capture Barry the Chopper, a former serial killer whose soul was bonded to a suit of armor much like Alphonse. Two new characters emerge on the scene out of the far eastern country of Xing from two different walks of life. Both of them claim to be seeking the secret of immortality. Mei-Chan is a young girl whose skill with alchemy seems on a par with Ed and is accompanied by a miniature panda bear! The other is a prince named Ling, who travels in the company of fighting ninja and claims to be after the Philosopher's Stone, even though he doesn't know anything about alchemy.
What I like about this series now is that since last volume it has completely branched off from the anime series, so this storyline and characters are something I haven't seen. The mysterious mechanations of the Homunculi becomes more and more suspenseful as I wonder what their real plans are and how all these conflicts are going to end, especially with them in control of everything the military is doing. It's kinda like an Emperor Palpatine situation a la Revenge of the Sith, where the real enemy is actually running the whole show. I think one of the strengths of this manga is the humor. Arakawa never takes her book too seriously. The anime at times fills itself up with too much angst and tragedy while the manga takes a more balanced approach. The art is great and I'm excited to find out how the new Eastern characters are going to fit into the plot.