By Robert Venditti, Diego Bernard & Brian Reber
Armor Hunters and X-O Manowar’s landmark 25th issue is quickly approaching so the start of this new arc with a new artist really has to be something big to try and bring people in. People who might not have been following X-O from the start, or maybe just jumped on with the recent Unity series, should find this fairly easy to follow. Writer Robert Venditti gets you up to speed with the basics without feeling like he’s just recapping story: failed Vine invasion, Aric is King, he’s working with the US Government even if he’s a little cheeky about it (see what I did there?), and there’s this new threat on its way to Earth.
Venditti has been in top form since starting X-O Manowar, so it should come as no surprise that #23 is another great issue from him. Time and time again Venditti has impressed while continuing to build these characters and help to build this new Valiant Universe. This new threat, Malgam, who appears to be made up of some form of the X-O armor himself, just might be Aric’s first real threat, and even something as simple as Venditti taking the time to show Aric’s armor repairing itself for three or four panels is significant considering how close Malgam was to tearing off his helmet. It’s something we really haven’t seen yet and it really elevates the anticipation for the next issue just to see how Aric can beat a guy, for lack of anything better to call it, like this.
A new arc means a new artist, since Cary Nord is unable to maintain the grueling monthly schedule and still keep his quality to a level we’re used to, and for this arc we get Diego Bernard. Bernard gets lucky with his first issue simply because of the amount of action Venditti has in it which seem to play to his strengths. Sure, it’s not Cary Nord’s art that we’ve been spoiled with here and there but it’s a damn good job in place of Nord. Particularly a scene that involves being sucked into space, much to the helpless and sorrow-filled expression on Aric’s face, and a rather painful arm… injury. Yikes. It’s worth mentioning, too, even if you’re getting tired of it, that Valiant veteran Brian Reber on colors rolls with the punches and turns out another awesome job on colors. No matter who’s making the lines, Reber’s colors brings it to another level while still maintaining a fluid, uniform look across the board that we’ve come to expect from Reber.
With Armor Hunters just over the horizon, now’s the time to check out X-O Manowar before the you-know-what hits the fan. You can even go and check out the recent first arc of Unity if you want to get a little more on Aric and why he’s working for the US Government without having to go all the way back to #1—even though it’s highly recommended that you do start from the beginning and read Unity. Either way, jump on and enjoy something a little different and outside of your Marvels and DCs, you won’t regret it.