Publisher: Valiant Entertainment
Writer: Robert Venditti
Artist: Robert Gill
Release Date: 6th January 2015
Apart from a brief flirtation with Ninjak a little earlier in the year, I must admit to being almost clueless when it comes to the Valiant-verse. Although receiving plenty of praise for their work, with one of my esteemed BCP colleagues naming the company on his ‘best of’ list for this year, I’ve never felt truly compelled to explore their universe further. However, after experiencing my first taste of X-O Manowar, I might have to reassess my feelings on the matter.
Having been assured that issue #43 was a great jumping on point for Valiant virgins, so to speak, I still had reservations that I would quickly become overwhelmed, but by the close of the opening sequence, I could tell this was going to be a book and a universe I’d like to know more about. Although initially there is an undoubted wealth of backstory to absorb, we are given a rather handy recap to open the story, which really helped me make sense of events whilst reading the issue.
The first part of a new arc, the basis of the story is mostly setup, but writer Robert Venditti engages the reader by expertly weaving exposition into the dialogue throughout, striking a fine balance between progressing the story, which moves along at a cracking pace, and subtle but detailed exploration of the lead characters. The dynamic between Aric and Ninjak is particularly interesting, with former’s moral ambiguity being the tool Aric needs to succeed in his mission, calling the ‘nobility’ of the hero into question.
The art on offer is fantastic from cover to cover, too, with Ulises Arreola’s glorious colours and Robert Gill’s slick storytelling effortlessly accentuating the beats of Venditti’s script. The action sequences are hugely impressive, especially in highlighting the differing combative styles and intent of Aric and Ninjak, but it’s the character expressions, body positions, framing, and realistic tone in those more low-key moments that provide the story with it’s depth, contrasting the vibrant spectacle with something more grounded.
So, If like me you are newcomer to the Valiant-Verse, and are looking for a suitable entry point, X-O Manowar #43 provides the perfect place to start.
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