The first year of X-O has really been a singel, over-arching story with a bit of Ninjak thrown in for spice. The story has revolved around Aric of Dacia wielding the X-O armor while the alien Vine fret about how to get it back. In this issue, the Vine put their plan into action and things get pretty messy for Aric.
The original Aric of Dacia (from the 1990′s series) spent a great deal of the early issues figuring out how to handle the armor as well as how to navigate the 20th century. Not much of Aric’s character was developed beyond the fact that he was a man out of time – sort of the Captain America version of Conan. But Venditti is taking a different approach with his version of Aric.
This Visigoth wields the might of the X-O armor smoothly and seems to have adapted to the 21st century without missing a beat. Venditti is more interested in exploring the character flaws of Aric and how he has yet to learn from the mistakes he made 1600 years ago. While he can muscle his way through most situations with his newfound armor, when he faces someone who can outsmart him (Ninjak) or someone as strong as him (Vine warriors in commando armor) then those flaws in his character become glaringly obvious. By focusing on those flaws, Venditti has created a character with infinitely more room to grow than just by figuring out how to use a cell phone or make the armor do a new trick.
This issue does a nice job of building on what has come before but also feels like it is moving the arc towards a conclusion. Aric is now in direct conflict with the Vine. The fighting in the second half of the book is fierce and frenetic, contrasting nicely with the psychological battle which is waged in the first half.
Trevor Hairsine handles art chores on this issue (as well as the next). There are some things he does well and others were not my cup of tea. His rendition of the X-O armor, the Vine, and the battle between the two was fantastic. It was exciting and included all kinds of fun visuals that make for a great read. The close up of the Vine commander launching the attack was especially powerful as Hairsine gave him a slightly skeletal look through the glare of the armor faceplate. It was immediately clear that X-O was in for a fight!
Unfrtuntely I was not as excited about his rendition of Aric. He looked like a reject from a late 80′s or early 90′s action flick with bad hair and a grubby muscle shirt. While Eric may be a Visigoth, he can’t have that bad of fashion sense!
Overall this issue has me fired up for the upcoming Planet Death arc. Unlike most prelude issues this one managed to actually move the story forward instead of just arranging the pieces and prolonging the inevitable. With this much action and excitement in just the prelude, I can’t wait for the main event!
X-O Manowar #9 is in stores today.