Monday, August 27, 2012

Advance Review: X-O Manowar #4

X-O Manowar #4
"Then and Now"
Writer: Robert Venditti
Artist: Cary Nord
Inker: Stefano Gaudiano
Colourist: Moose Bauman

The flagship title of the new Valiant Universe continues this week as Aric of Dacia finds himself faced with an armed response to his sudden arrival in the modern age. Robert Venditti and Cary Nord’s relaunched X-O Manowar series has been excellent so far, and from an action perspective, this issue once again delivers as Aric shows off what the Manowar armor can do when faced with modern military hardware. 

Storywise, Venditti continues to develop the schism within the Vine as the religious and military factions disagree about what to with our time-displaced protagonist. We also get to see a meeting between the Vine admiral and what I’m assuming are the descendants of the Vine babies we saw in Issue #1; a scene that seems to be sowing seeds of unrest among the Vine’s sleeper agents that have been stationed on Earth.

Despite how great it was to see the Manowar armor in action again, I found the scenes between the Vine factions in this issue to be the most intriguing. As antagonists, The Vine are a vast improvement over the Spider Aliens  from the original series, as their motivations are not completely black or white( or even really all that known to us, yet) and their culture is much more nuanced. I feel like we still have a lot to learn about this alien race, but Venditti is keeping the real progression of his story a secret, as small layers are revealed to us issue by issue.

If I have one minor gripe with this issue, it is this: when Aric rips the pilot of the Eurofighter out of his jet and demands he tell him where the Emperor is, he speaks to the pilot in English and the pilot responds IN ENGLISH. First of all, they are in Italy, and the pilot is Italian, ergo, they should be speaking Italian. Secondly, Aric of Dacia is a Visigoth. His language predates English by more than a thousand years! I'll have to re-read the first few issues and see if there was any indication that the armor was working as a translator, but as I was reading this issue this really bugged me. 

This is extremely nitpicky, I know. I should be able to use my suspension of disbelief when reading a comic about a barbarian in power armor fighting aliens, but in the original series they made a big deal out of the fact that once he entered the modern era, Aric had to actually learn how to read and speak English. He was an uncultured, violent, illiterate barbarian. In this issue, the helmet transmits 16 centuries of human history directly into Aric’s brain. Boom. I can assume, therefore, that it is also acting as a universal translator, but personally, having the character adapt so quickly to the present day makes him less interesting. 

Granted, in this new series Aric seems to have been branded a terrorist for the incident in Rome, so it remains to be seen exactly how adjusted Aric becomes. 

Some readers might find the pacing of X-O Manowar to be too decompressed, since very little has happened so far beyond the book’s initial premise, but I feel like with every issue of this series I have gotten my money’s worth in entertainment value. There is a really nice balance in this series between plot, character development, action and exposition. It feels very deliberately paced, and though some might find that frustrating, to me it's an indication that the series is building towards something. 

This is definitely a series that will read better once it has been collected in a trade paperback or hardcover collection, but each issue has done a great job in packing a ton of action into the book, interesting details about the aliens, the armor, and Aric himself to bring you into the world of the story, and just enough of the plot to keep things intriguing and leaving you wanting more.

The Summer of Valiant is almost over but this series shows every indication that it will continue to improve as the year continues. Since these first four issues have basically just retold the origin of X-O Manowar, I am really excited to see where the book goes from here. 

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