by Robert Venditti, Diego Bernard, Brian Reber and Ryan Winn
Whoa that splash page, man. Penciler Diego Bernard, inker Ryan Winn and colorist Brian Reber come out of the gates absolutely swinging for the atmosphere and within a few pages it’s crystal damn clear that Dead Hand is going to be one hell of an arc for X-O Manowar. Seemingly some sort of fail safe for the Armor Hunters, Dead Hand has been unleashed on the universe and it looks like once again ol’ Aric of Dacia is up against it.
One day, maybe writer Robert Venditti will give us an entire arc where Aric just lounges around and has a few drinks before being told to take out the garbage. Maybe one day, but certainly not today. From one meat grinder to the next, Venditti has tossed a huge (literally) obstacle in Aric’s way and unlike the enemies that have come before, it doesn’t seem like there’s any chance of reasoning with it or even trying to understand it, for that matter. Dead Hand has one goal (okay, two) and it’s going to do whatever it has to in order to achieve it. Even if that means using its Death Star laser. Seriously.
Back to the art team, though, because damn. Can we talk about the space scenes for a moment? It’s unclear how much of that is Bernard and how much is just Reber and Winn, but whoever put these together did an absolutely stellar job. Frankly, it’s some of the best space sequences in recent memory and hopefully not one that people will overlook. That being said, series regular Diego Bernard continues his track record of great issues after his one-issue break for X-O Manowar #33—which is a great jumping-on point for those that are still lagging behind on this series–and once again proceeds to produce some of his best work. There’s a close up of Aric after he sees Dead Hand for the first time that is just magnificent. From the helmet reflection to his eyes and expression, that one little panel, and of course the reveal after it, really drives home the wow factor of this issue that this team started with the initial spread.
Both Reber and Winn add amazing depth and layers to the pencil work of Diego Bernard and their fantastic contributions can’t go overlooked. Really, X-O Manowar continues to be the crown jewel of Valiant, even if other books are starting to creep up on it, and it’s due to the work of all the people involved. From the mastermind Venditti to the current art team, and of course the teams that have come before them, this is a series that just keeps changing and evolving and raising the bar every time out. What more can you ask of creative team than that?