By Robert Venditti, Robert Gill and Ulises Arreola
X-O Manowar has remained the flagship title at Valiant for nearly four years now and for good reason. Robert Venditti has managed to develop a story which, while told in the typical four issue arcs we’ve come to expect in comics, encompasses an overarching story where themes and ideas have resurfaced time and time again.
“The Kill List” is the latest arc in the series which began with issue 43 last month, reuniting the titular X-O Manowar with Ninjak, a character which made his first appearance in the relaunched Valiant universe in X-O Manowar’s second arc. Interestingly, “The Kill List” features the same cast of characters as that with the return of Vine planting Alexander, the team up of X-O Manowar and Ninjak, and MI-6’s involvement in this part of the Valiant universe but with a few added twists.
After their homeworld, Loam, was destroyed, the Vine are now living next to the Visigoths they had formerly enslaved. This leads to an interesting exploration of how these two societies must now learn to interact with each other as equals, even though the scars of thousands of years of oppression lead to high tensions on both sides of the (literal) fence. Using the Armorines adds an interesting new element to the situation and is nice fan service for readers of the original Valiant universe.
What really makes X-O Manowar #44 stand out though is the return to a more street-level action book instead of the giant threats we’ve seen since the Armor Hunters event of 2014. X-O and Ninjak’s relationship has always been one of necessity and never a true partnership as their different personalities and motivations don’t really help Aric and Collin King see eye to eye. There is no doubt that the two are a tremendous force to be reckoned with, especially as they attempt to eliminate the secret, underground factions of Vine plantings which are plotting to once again enslave humanity with Commander Trill at the helm.
Readers haven’t been privy to what these plantings have been up to since X-O Manowar’s second arc, so it’s nice to see the story call back to a little explored part of X-O’s story. We have seen Joshua Dysart explore the history of the Vine plantings on Earth over on Imperium in its most recent arc, so if you’re curious to learn more, consider picking up Imperium #9-12 but know that it’s not necessary to understand what’s happening in X-O Manowar.
Joining Robert Venditti in this arc is Robert Gill on art, reuniting the team which brought us Valiant’s last event with the Book of Death miniseries. Gill’s art is perfect for this type of book and he has poured a tremendous amount of detail in each and every page and giving each character an emotional vibrance that really serves to highlight Venditti’s script. Ulises Arreola’s colors certainly go a long way to making Gill’s pencils truly shine with often bright and expressive color choices.
Overall, X-O Manowar #44 is an excellent addition to Aric’s story and the “The Kill List” is shaping up to be another solid arc that is sure to set up what’s next in X-O’s corner of the Valiant universe. If X-O Manowar is not on your pull list, you are definitely missing out.