Written By Robert Venditti, Fred Van Lente, Jody Houser, Matt Kindt
Art by Joe Bennett, Loerzer & Brabo, Ulises Arreola, Cary Nord, Doug Braithwaite, Diego Bernard, Rafa Sandoval, Robert Gill, David Baron, Brian Reber, Tom Palmer, Roberto De La Torre, Dean White, Clayton Henry, Javier Pulido, Muntsa Vicente
It’s the end of an era. X-O Manowar, the flagship of the Valiant Entertainment publishing line, is ending its fifty-issue run with a book befitting a king. Featuring the finale of the “Long Live the King” arc plus three additional stories, X-O Manowar #50 is a moving tribute to Aric and his journey.
And what a journey it has been. Across galaxies and even time itself, writer Robert Venditti – who has helmed X-O since its debut in 2012 – spun the tale of a brash young man destined to lead, though not in the way Aric imagined or even when he imagined. It’s been a pleasure reading this title since its inception, witnessing the transformation of Aric from a stubborn, vengeful hot head into a stern yet unbiased leader. Life has been an excellent teacher, and Aric an apt pupil. Time tempered his rage, but never squelched his passion for his people or justice. Venditti has given a soul to a character that could have been a one-note warrior in the hands of someone else.
This book is beautiful in thought and exquisite in appearance. The renderings are expansive both in subject and approach. A spectacular list of creators contributed to this book, a veritable who’s who of the Valiant universe. Notably, artists who either worked on the X-O title or another where Aric appeared, such as Unity, contributed to the main story. Each was given a double page spread that detailed a specific sequence, so the change in art was never jarring. Reliving the last four years of adventure via the hands of the artists who guided readers through the initial experiences is both an effective nod to their history as well as a treat to the reader. There are breathtaking views of space and worlds we’ve yet to discover interspersed with illustrator Joe Bennet’s interpretation of the current time line story. Witnessing this as we do through Aric’s eyes, it’s hard to imagine that any words could encapsulate the sensation and emotion as well as the art does. The effect is mesmerizing.
The main story “Long Live The King” finishes out Venditti’s final arc in the series. Aric of Dacia alongside several of Valiant’s heroes and even the Vine are facing the threat of the world-eaters, the Torment. The previous book ended with Aric being absorbed by the aliens. This story, however, is not one of despair. It focuses on Aric and the Torment, answering questions readers have had regarding their motivation and what happens next. This was an excellent story and a fulfilling cap on Aric’s adventures. Contributing artists include Joe Bennett, Loerzer & Brabo, Ulises Arreola, Cary Nord, Doug Braithwaite, Diego Bernard, Rafa Sandoval, Robert Gill, David Baron, Brian Reber, Tom Palmer, Roberto De La Torre, and Dean White. They’ve done an outstanding job bringing this story to life. Readers will be hard-pressed to keep their eyes dry.
Three additional stories are included. Each have their own unique voice and add to the lore. Fred Van Lente’s “The Two Deaths of Gaius Maelius” will surprise readers with an unexpected appearance that ties into the larger Valiant universe and hints at the possibility of a future plot point. While amusing on its own, the story serves to show the growth of Aric’s character. Artist Clayton Henry and colorist Brian Reber round out the team on this engaging piece which highlights Henry’s clean lines and skill as well as Reber’s emotional influence on the story.
“His Greatest Failure,” written by Jody Houser, illustrated by Javier Pulido and colored by Muntsa Vicente is an outside perspective on Aric from another of Valiant’s heroes. It touches on a previous storyline and examines their mutual respect. It’s a relationship that readers will be glad to see recognized for its change and significance. Bright and spartan, the art reflects the tone of the piece. Keep an eye out for the unique story credit.
The final story, “The Future,” is guaranteed to knock your socks off. Writer Matt Kindt’s story, devoid of almost all verbiage, is shocking and opens up a world of possibilities that will have readers speculating. Artist Tomas Giorello and colorist Diego Rodriguez craft a stunning sequence rich in detail and atmosphere. This story is jaw-dropping, and the final panel of the story and the book itself, is incredible.
X-O Manowar #50 is a must-not-be-missed book. This is a landmark issue that not only closes this particular chapter of X-O’s adventures, but offers readers both a fitting tribute and a future. Special thanks go out to writer Robert Venditti for his work on this title. You are a definitive Valiant voice.