Sunday, September 25, 2016

X-O Manowar #50 Review

The King is Dead … Long Live the King?

Written by: Robert Venditti
Art by: Joe Bennett, Marcio Loerzer, Bellardino Barbo, and Ulises Arreola

Cover Price: $3.99
Release Date: September 28, 2016
Publisher: Valiant Comics
Review by: Branden Murray

This is it folks. Everything the X-O Manowar title has been building up to over the last couple years comes to an ending in issue #50 … or does it? Frankly, either way, I’m sad. X-O Manowar has been one of my favorite titles to keep up with on a month to month basis, always building on what’s come before it. If you haven’t been following along with this title, first of all, shame on you. Second of all, you missed Aric being treated like a human Skittle as he was helplessly consumed and imprisoned by the Earth invading Torment. This left the planet as we know it obviously in dire straits without its greatest hero. So, now what happens? Does this disaster porn reach its completion with a happy ending? I may not reveal all the answers you’re looking for in this non spoiler review, but I will shed some light on the why this book is awesome and why you need to pick it up. 

At the immediate start of this issue, I was thrown for a loop because we weren’t treated to our traditional Valiant recap page that my ADD riddled brain has grown so accustomed to. However, when we do get into the story, we see the start of something much much better. To remind everyone of Aric’s past dealings, we’re treated to several double page spreads that, recap X-O’s history, what’s happened lately, and how he’s gotten himself into this precarious position … in the belly of the Torment. The art, on these beginning spread pages, is nothing short of stunning and something you will want a physical copy of the book to truly appreciate. These are poster worthy splash pages your girlfriend might even allow you to hang up on the wall and we all know how fickle they can be about that. The attention to detail, coloring, and line work is some of the best in any comic book by any publisher I’ve ever seen ... no bullshit.

Our story continues as X-O Manowar sinks into the abyss of the Torments digestive track, with the battle continuing to rage on Earth between those left and the enemy. As Aric is inundated with various visions of information, with only the help of “Shanhara” (the name for X-O’s suit of armor), he begins to interpret. Its here we find out the answers to many of our long awaited questions regarding the Torment. Why are they here on Earth? What’s the purpose of their mission? We get it all in this issue. That's not all, either. Just when you think you have a grasp of the happenings, Mr. Venditti is able to pull the ol’ switch-a-roo on us. 

NO, you cheap bastards, I won’t do it. I can’t and won’t spoil these reveals for anybody and trust me, you’ll thank me later. What I will say though, is in true Valiant fashion, the publisher has never been one to end a story and return a character to their status quo, and that trend continues here. As a reader and someone who purchases a ton of comics, this is thoroughly appreciated. I think all readers have become all too accustomed to a “deux-ex machina” weapon or event that ends most stories and has things return to normal. I prefer the no punches pulled approach here which results in changes going forward that will remain intact and affect our characters and settings. 

To accompany our main story, there are also three (yes three!) back up stories. Each of the stories adds additional context to the history of X-O Manowar while also setting the tone for where the story may possibly continue in the future. The one mini spoiler I will provide is that hints of a return in 2017 are seeded … and now I feel a strange stirring feeling deep in my loins.

The bottom line; this is an important book to anybody who has kept up with the Valiant Universe or that has followed X-O Manowar through fifty issues plus crossover material. The art is jaw dropping, the story hits all the right beats, and a satisfying conclusion is reached while hinting at future events that make sense. Kudos goes to the entire team at Valiant for putting together a satisfying award worthy conclusion to a well-deserved title.

Bits and Pieces:

Inherently, last issues are difficult to review because you want to try and provide everyone with a few thoughts while leaving the mystery open to those truly interested in seeing a story through to its conclusion. If you take away anything from this blurb at all it would be to buy this book. In today’s comic landscape,  it’s exceedingly rare, when reboots and relaunches rule the sales charts, for a superhero comic to have a coherent beginning, middle and end to a story. X-O Manowar has proven this tried and true formula of storytelling can produce top notch entertainment when given the time to grow. I want more like it.


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