Mild spoilers for anyone who’s reading through this. Nothing big though.
I caught up on X-O Manowar, which was just relaunched a few months ago, written by Matt Kindt. The current iteration I found so beautiful that I wanted to go back and see the history of the character, which was rebooted with the rest of Valiant in 2012. The series had 50 issues plus several one shot side stories, and overall, was very intriguing.
It started with a character who’s pulled from Roman times, as an alien race called The Vine is seeding and harvesting worlds for slaves, of which Aric is brought to the vine world. Our hero starts a rebellion and discovers the Manowar armor, which is a holy relic of the vine. He fights his way out, and some of the vine start to hail him religiously as a chosen one, others see him as blasphemy. Epic battles ensue, and he comes back to Earth only to find that he’s now in modern times with his armor, that his people have no home.
After a lot that I’ll gloss over, Aric and his Visigoth people sset up shop in Nebraska and some good superhero/sci-fi tales get told from there. I enjoyed probably 2/3 of the series (which is pretty good for 50 issues).
Toward the end of the run, the last 25% of the books or so, the quality went back and forth. The art maintained its standards, which is nice, but the writing suffered from a couple of problems:
- “Save the world” syndrome – where each arc progressively saves the world from a more dangerous threat. This happens a lot in comic runs, and it takes a lot of the suspense out of later battles because he’s already fought the epic destruction machine that devours worlds, so seeing one again doesn’t ring in the same way on the second or third times. Maintaining discipline of not going to these kind of arcs is really hard, though it can be done, or having more personal developments in between help as well. Granted we did get a little of that with the wedding, but after that it went back to full tilt.
- Reliance on comic tropes. At points, X-O became Green Lantern. They even put in an XO corps kind of deal in a couple of different ways. There was a galactus villain. Once back on earth, it became Agents of SHIELD only not. What had a lot of unique premises got brought into the Marvel/DC way of doing things, which made the book lose a lot of its charm in the closing chapters.
Even with those, as I said, most of the arcs were completely satisfying. Vendetti did a great job with it, so much so that I checked out his Green Lantern run (which writing both might be why this storyline kinda blended at points).
The big thing that disappointed me, however, was that it didn’t answer any of my questions from the new run. The armor in the new run sorta has a way of speaking/calling to Aric, which the powers of it in this universe are pretty undeveloped. We see the whole paff thing when he fires his little bolts, an occasional laser sword which isn’t explained how he figured out how to do that, flying, some invulnerability, but because of the lack of definition and limits, it hurts some suspension as well in stories, but I’m still more concerned about how it really didn’t lead up to the relaunch.
That goes from the character standpoint too. We see a tired warrior in the new X-O. Aric is depressed, wants nothing to do with anything, but slaughters mercilessly. This wasn’t where he was left off at all in the prior run. The prior run didn’t prepare for that in the least. What happened to his wife, his people that caused this? I was hoping to get a few of those answers, and was braced for some really emotional moments at the end of this run that never came to fruition. The last 8 issues or so just were battle to battle to battle that didn’t have much in the way of emotional impact, some of the weakest in the series even though it resolved a lot of the vine conflict.
I’m complaining a lot, as comic book readers tend to do, but I have to iterate that this is one of the best superhero stories I’ve read in a long time by leaps and bounds, with the new issues even surpassing that so far. I hope we can see a little bit more character development as the new books have gone a bit fast, and there’s a lot of explaining to do which hasn’t been done yet in terms of what happened here.
We’ll have to see how it goes. Even though it was darn good, I was hoping for that little bit more that would have pushed this run to greatness.