By Matt Kindt, Clayton Crain, Renata Guedes
This issue totally personifies what X-O Manowar is, and it’s glorious. From the first page, it demands a sort of respect that’s come to be expected from Valiant. The art is so captivating that it covers up a small rushed section of the narrative. More than that, meaningful character growth differentiates X-O Manowar from many other titles out there – especially for long time fans. Matt Kindt has brought Aric a long way from the brute he was years ago.
Clayton Crain on art does more than just pull his weight, however. Like Prince Aric, any page out of this issue is authoritative and powerful. Each panel looks like an oil painting that could hang in a museum, not allowing the medium to limit the style. Similarly, Aric himself takes advantage of the situation he’s in and adapts. The art and the character work together in this issue and the entire run thus far.
The most rewarding part of the issue is Aric himself. He learns in ways many other characters don’t, and is willing to change for the better. That being said, Aric’s solution is almost too intelligent. It’s as if he outwits the narrative itself after so much tension is built and then toppled over in only a few panels. Although in the moment it felt rushed, in retrospect it’s successful, and even surprising to see a writer embrace character growth rather than avoid it just to make a more exciting issue. Respect.
X-O Manowar #8 is aware of what’s going outside of its own pages, too. It addresses embracing change not only personally, but politically. Governmental change isn’t as easy as we might hope, and not everyone wants the same things. It’s nuanced with different interest groups, just like the ones Aric is advised of in the beginning of this issue. Readers who haven’t spent a lot of time with Aric since he first discovered the armor might be surprised by his new philosophies, but they’re refreshingly progressive, in more ways than one.
Probably surprising no one, X-O Manowar continues to impress in every way, even catching itself when it trips. Kindt’s pacing puts less of an emphasis on plot, and hones in on Aric’s personal choices. While disappointing at first, the choice is more resonant in terms of what kind of leader Aric will be and the struggles he’ll deal with. During this scene, Manowar leans on the artistic prowess of Crain. It works, to say the least. Aric is an epic character, and thanks to Crain, his action scenes are too. He has weight on the page and because of that, his power is palpable. The artist understands the character just as much as the writer. X-O Manowar #8 reads as a thank you to creators who brought him to fame, and a promise to fans that Aric will reign for a long, long time.