Despite the fact that Ninjak was supposed to be the selling point for this issue, the strength of the issue continues to be the writing by Robert Venditti. He includes enough action to make the book exciting, but does not skimp on the quiet character moments. Aric continues to deal with the horrible reality of having everyone he knows and hold dear be dead. Worse, he is left with no one to lash out at, as they are all either dead or millions of miles away in space. So the isolated warrior is left with no direction to go and no one to turn to for help. It is painful to watch as Aric process through the stages of grief.
There is actually something Hulk-like in this issue. Aric wants nothing more than to be left alone with his thoughts and memories. But he is constantly hounded by the Vine as well as the Italian authorities, making him incredibly angry. And you won’t like him when he’s angry!
But what about Ninjak??? I had some concerns going in that Ninjak (a non-powered character) would be a good foil for the mighty X-O suit. However Venditti deals with the problem in a unique and unexpected manner, highlighting the difference between the two characters and their approaches to doing battle. It was a thrilling debut for Ninjak and I am looking forward to seeing how this arc progresses. Ninjak is an exciting addition to the Valiant Universe and seems like the kind of character that could make an impact on any title he visits.
New penciller Lee Garbett debuts with this issue. Garbett’s style (or maybe it is just the inking provided by holdover Stefano Gaudino) matches Cary Nord’s pretty well, creating artistic continuity between the issues. I hope that Garbett will actually begin to find his own style a bit more. I enjoyed his work on Batgirl and did not recognize this as his work. It is not that Nord’s work is bad or that X-O is not a good looking book. I just would not mind seeing Garbett’s take on the characters.
X-O is a must read month in and month out. Issue five continues the strong work that has defined the “Summer of Valiant” and paves the way for exciting times to come. X-O Manowar is in stores today.