X-O Manowar #16 Review

X-O Manowar #16 is the kickoff to the latest offering from Valiant as the road to Unity has begun.

Official description from VALIANT:
Once they were brothers-in-arms, comrades sworn to the same cause. But now they find themselves on opposing sides of a battle for the very fate of civilization itself. Aric of Dacia and the immense power that he wields have the potential to the plunge the world into a new era of war, and the only man who can broker a world peace also happens its to be its most fearsome warrior.

Aric is still dealing with the fallout of Planet Death as he begins the unthinkable task of reclaiming his homeland of Dacia for his people in modern-day Romania. As he continues to struggle with his plan, his friend from sixteen centuries ago, Gilad, the Eternal Warrior, tries to make him see the error of his ways. While Gilad has seen the rise and fall of civilizations, Aric is blinded by the narrow focus of reclaiming his homeland.

The issue begins with a flashback to when Gilad was training Aric in the ways of combat and preparing him for the throne. It sets the tone of wise teacher vs. rash, impulsive student. Aric has always had the right intentions for his people but his methods may start a modern day war. Robert Venditti writes Aric with heart and compassion and makes this fish out of water tale ripe for internal conflict. That subtext carries trough the centuries and Gilad has the impossible task of once again teaching Aric nobility and humility.

By the final pages the road to Valiant’s new title Unity is well under way and it’s setting up to be an exciting crossover event. Venditti is using his skill of balancing multiple characters and plot lines to his work over at DC but Valiant is where he has honed his craft and X-O Manowar is easily his best work. He flows effortlessly from exposition to all out action without breaking a sweat. There is a perfectly placed sequence of Aric’s blind ambition destroying his crown, literally and figuratively, that is the heart of Aric and Gilad’s struggles.

Lee Garbett’s work is stellar here. The ability to handle to smooth flowing nature of X-O’s suit to the hardness of the action and violence makes for striking panels and sequences. I can’t overstate one specific graphically detailed panel of Aric’s attack on Gilad and the gut wrenching effect it has on the reader. Garbett also understands clearly how X-O’s armor operates and brings it to life as a totally separate character.

X-O Manowar is shaping up to be the leader in the Valiant Universe and with so many solid titles that’s no easy feat. Aric and Gilad’s complicated relationship and history is the most interesting and dynamic in comics right now. Unity is going to be the toughest challenge for Aric and the Shanhara and, with the soon to be released Eternal Warrior title, the X-O Manowar section of the Valiant Universe looks to be it’s best yet.