X-O Manowar #4 (2017)
“War is always about betrayal; betrayal of the young by the old, of idealists by cynics, and of troops by politicians.”
― Chris Hedges
Several months ago, writer Matt Kindt was afforded the opportunity to take the helm of Valiant Entertainment’s flagship title, X-O Manowar. The fourth volume of the title, and also most ambitious in scope, Kindt creates an intergalactic struggle between class and race in a war fought by three opposing sides where the greatest hero is a warrior from the planet earth, many light years away. Each opposing faction has its own complex interests and self-interested motives not unlike what is seen in the geopolitical realities of our own world.
The result is (and has been) nothing short of phenomenal. The first three issues of this title, Kindt focused on the protagonist (Aric) in the role of a soldier. X-O Manowar #4 is the beginning of Aric’s role as General in this war. However, as is true in any war, all sides justify their actions. All sides demonstrate heroic and villainous actions. With a multi-layered plot, Kindt promises to captivate readers for the near and distant future.
Artistically, X-O Manowar #4 represents a change in the artistic team. Issues #1 through #3 were masterfully penciled by Tomas Giorello. Beginning with issue #4, artist Doug Braithwaite creates the visual experience. Braithwaite has previously provided pencils on Unity, Imperium, and Armor Hunters (in addition to Book of Death: The Fall of Bloodshot); all of which received high marks from critics and fans alike. While Giorello and Braithwaite differ somewhat in style, there is absolutely zero noticeable drop in quality. Braithwaite’s work on Unity #1 through #3 provided a menacing and iconic version of X-O Manowar, and it is no small wonder that he has returned to the character to render the next chapter of Kindt’s space odyssey. Braithwaite works mostly with pencils and employs a traditional approach that is visible in the final published product. The result is visually stunning, but with raw and organic elements of heart and soul evident within each panel.
Continuing with colorist Diego Rodriguez (X-O Manowar #1, #2, and #3) is a smart move. While Giorello and Braithwaite have different art styles, they both work in pencil, which is a consistent approach throughout this series for Rodriguez to work with. His familiar color palette allows for a changing of the guard from Giorello to Braithwaite without creating a jarring or noticeable transition effect on readers. The setting remains as vibrant and distinct as ever, which helps the story flow well from issue to issue.
X-O Manowar is an intergalactic space epic that feels like the 2000 Academy Award winner for “Best Picture” Gladiator, if it were to occur in the Star Wars universe with the violence dialed up to level 10. It is constantly well written, visually awesome, and everything that is right in the comic book game right now. Do yourself a favor and get into this series. X-O Manowar is a remarkable experience that knocks it out of the park month after month.