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X-O Manowar #37 [Review]

xomanowar037Dead Hand Part 4: Red Earth

Writer: Robert Venditti
Pencils: Diego Bernard
Inks: Ryan Winn w/Mark Pennington & Bit
Colors: Brian Reber
Letters: Dave Sharpe
Cover: Stephen Segovia & Brian Reber
Editor: Tom Brennan
Editor in Chief: Warren Simons
Published by: Valiant
Cover Date: June 2015
Cover Price: $3.99

While my feelings toward Valiant have taken a definite beating in the last few months, this issue reminded me why I’ll certainly be sticking with this SERIES even if I don’t stick with the entirety of Valiant‘s output.

We come to the conclusion of this Dead Hand arc, and we find things at a bit of a standoff. Authorities on Earth are quite alarmed at what might be coming, and seek to find out what they can of it. Meanwhile, as readers we see that Dead Hand has paused to consider how to proceed, taken aback by the sudden presence of a number of armors (that Aric has called to his side from throughout the galaxy) and then by their defense of life (Dead Hand having been programmed to eradicate the armors, all of whom were to be selfish things causing harm and destruction to life, not defending it). Of course, we get the predictable battle, with somewhat predictable results, then a bit of wrap up and an “out” to allow for future situations.

This issue truly felt like the end of an event series…yet it’s actually “only” the end of a single 4-issue story within the main X-O Manowar title, and there were no tie-ins, cross-overs, one-shots, etc. This was an organic follow-up to last year’s Armor Hunters, taking stuff set forth by that and exploring it further, adding to the X-O/Aric mythos, and serving as another off-earth “cosmic adventure” for our hero that makes SENSE. It also as an arc gave us some more characterization of and motivation to the Vine that will have long-lasting consequences in-continuity (say, like Marvel‘s Avengers‘ initial Kree-Skrull War).

A lot of my feelings come from the arc in general, and this issue lacks some of the core characterization and “moments.” We do have what I would consider a satisfactory conclusion to the arc, while leaving things open for later stuff to develop.

As the end of an arc, this is definitely for the continuing readers, and certainly not geared to be a jump-on point or a special singular issue (see the X-O Manowar 25th Anniversary Special for that or next month’s issue). If you’ve been following the title, it’s well worth getting this issue; any negative feelings I have come from external/”meta” stuff.

Venditti‘s writing continues to be strong, and with no less than 38 (37 plus the #0) issues CONSISTENTLY thus far to his name, has become the iconic writer of the character and book: with his name attached, it’s simple that the story works within its continuity and internal feel. The art is good as well, and I have no particular complaints with it.

In short, I enjoyed this issue far more than I expected to–both in and of itself as a single issue as well as the conclusion to a huge (but short) storyline.

X-O Manowar #35 [Review]

xomanowar035Dead Hand Part 2: Extinction Event

Writer: Robert Venditti
Penciler: Diego Bernard
Inkers: Ryan Winn w/Faucher & Pennington
Colorists: Brian Reber w/Ulises Arreola
Letterer: Dave Sharpe
Cover Artists: Lewis Larosa, Jorge Molina, Rafa Sandoval, Juan Jose Ryp
Associate Editor: Tom Brennan
Editor: Warren Simons
Published by: Valiant
Cover Date: April 2015
Cover Price: $3.99

Including the #0 issue a few months back, this marks 36 issues of this title so far. Three years that Valiant’s been "back" in the monthly comics game. 36 monthly issues of a single ongoing title, period. 36 monthly issues with a single writer. And I’ve been reading since the beginning; and even looking back to the 1990s, the original X-O Manowar title was in its early to mid #20s when I became aware of it, and probably wasn’t much past its own 3-year mark when it dipped back off my radar for the most part. Which is all to say: this has to be one of the best "runs" I’ve experienced in a long time.

That said…this is the second issue of presumably a 4-part story. Unlike last year’s Armor Hunters crossover event, this story seems contained to this title. That it continues to draw from that event organically, furthering and developing stuff introduced is a great reward as a longtime reader. While this is not a multi title crossover event…the fact that it deals with stuff FROM one (for me) gives an interesting suggestion: if the initial introduction of the Armor Hunters warranted a huge event, and this Dead Hand thing is those guys’ failsafe and possibly a WORSE threat…SCALE has already been established such that stuff is still quite epic, even contained within this one title.

We open the issue on Earth, several years from now as a couple scientists contemplate an apparent supernova and decide they’d be toast by now if it was actually Alpha Centauri. We then shift TO the Alpha Centauri system where Aric races to contact the high priest on Loam, to get as many Vine evacuated as possible before their planet is destroyed. The Dead Hand protocol has triggered an extinction-level event to wipe out all life on the planet. Though Aric gets through and a handful of Vine escape…the planetary loss is horrific and leaves Aric angry as can be, even as we see how he HAS changed in his ways and dealings with others.

Story-wise, I found myself slightly distracted reading this as I marveled at the fact that I felt bad for the Vine people as well as contemplating Aric’s compassion for them…that they’re not merely some generic race of "spider-aliens" to be loathed AS a race.

The story itself is engaging and–other than the above thoughts–kept me racing through, wondering what would happen, how many would be saved, and seeing a lot of potential for "follow-up" to this issue’s events…particularly if this series lasts a lot longer yet.

The art did what I often prefer: looked good and did not distract. I liked it–I had a good sense of what was going on, and where my mind skipped ahead, forging a very clear expectation, the art quite lived up to it where it could have just as easy been a huge letdown.

"Obviously," as part 2 of a multi-part arc, and in this day ‘n age of comics not being the readiest-available form of entertainment for the casual reader…this won’t be an ideal jumping-on point. But if you’re already following the title, read the previous issue, and whatnot…this is well worth getting. Alternatively, if you’ve read Armor Hunters (the core mini and/or tie-ins and/or the full-event deluxe hardcover due out in a few weeks [as of this writing]…this arc is certainly a worthwhile follow-up to that event. And if you like "cosmic," this arc certainly fits that, and is certainly on-par with anything I know of recent Marvel cosmic stuff…but far more self-contained so far.

Matching to the previous issue (#34), and the above qualifiers…highly recommended!

X-O Manowar #34 [Review]

xomanowar0034Dead Hand part 1: To the Last

Writer: Robert Venditti
Penciler: Diego Bernard
Inker: Ryan Winn
Colorist: Brian Reber
Letterer: Dave Sharpe
Cover Artists: Lewis Larosa, Jorge Molina, Das Pastoras, Butch Guice
Associate Editor: Tom Brennan
Editor: Warren Simons
Published by: Valiant Comics
Cover Date: March 2015
Cover Price: $3.99

This issue is fairly distinct as the first “overlay” cover I’m aware of from this incarnation of Valiant. In addition to the “regular” cover, we have another piece covering half the front and all of the back of the issue, providing the same house-ad in color on the back (but nothing on the interior) and half the image of the front (in black-and-white with nothing on the interior side). The overlay includes the arc designation Dead Hand and story chapter (1), while the main/actual cover itself underneath is entirely in color with no arc designation or anything to indicate a new or specific arc.

Compared to prior issues where the “A” cover was outright MISSING half the image as a “variant”/”interlocking” sequence of covers for a single issues, I’ll gladly take this. I don’t really “get” the need for the overlay–the arc title doesn’t cover much and fits the title logo and simply looks like a comic cover. I’ll also accept this as an alternative to having a “black and white variant cover” and a “color variant cover” or some “virgin art” variant cover. Seeing this process done infuriates me all the more on the matter of variant covers.

xomanowar0034_showing_overlay

That said, the cover isn’t bad but doesn’t really stand out to me other than the presence of the overlay.

I like the story quite well, and caught myself contemplating that I’m pretty sure Venditti has been on this book for 35-some issues now (including the #0 issue) which in this day and age is a significant run despite barely being 3 years. While I’ve had previous issues that I didn’t totally “follow” consciously, this one felt nicely rooted in a general continuity–I’ve read since #1; I read the Planet Death arc a couple years ago I read last year’s Armor Hunters stuff; and so this flows nicely out of everything that’s developed so far. I enjoyed seeing Aric return to Loam (and that I recognized the planet’s name) and felt like the Vine (aka “spider aliens”) could be sympathetic characters if only generically. I also quite liked Aric’s sense of responsibility toward ’em.

The art for the issue is solid, and while nothing stood out to me as singularly spectacular or such, it’s really good and fits the story quite well. The design of this issue’s Armor Hunters (with their armors) have a cool look to them and made me think of an “X-O Manowar Corps” in a sense.

This is clearly the opening chapter of an arc, as it basically “just” introduces stuff for the main part of the whole: we see Aric with his people as he prepares to leave; we’re introduced to what I believe are previously-unknown Armor Hunters; we’re introduced to Dead Hand; we see Loam and its reception for Aric; and we’re left on the cusp of a significant event for Loam and Aric as the issue ends. Though a reader would certainly enjoy this most as an in-context story, there’s just enough introductory stuff that I’d say this would be a good jumping-in point for someone to give the book a shot. Unfortunately, this IS “just” an opening chapter of a larger arc so that lends its own aspect to the book in general: there’s NOT a “full story” just in this single issue, which does promote the advantage of waiting for a collected volume to get an entire story in one book.

Whatever complaints I’ve had on variant covers, or my general complaint toward the $3.99 price point, this is a solid issue, and fresh off from reading it, it’s a nice validation of my enjoyment of the series as a whole. As the premiere and presently longest-running Valiant title, if you aren’t checking it out issue by issue, it’s at least well worth checking out in collected edition format. Significant as the Armor Hunters saga was, Dead Hand looks to be extremely significant for Aric and his supporting cast of characters minus additional issues outside of X-O Manowar itself to follow. Very much recommended!

The Weekly Haul – Week of October 1st, 2014

Despite expecting a rather small week, this was far larger a week than I even wanted!

weekly_haul_october_1st_2014a

At least Star-Lord and Rocket Raccoon seem to have split after at LEAST two months of being released same-day. Action Comics and Armor HUnters: Aftermath cap of respective sagas. And Eventually I’ll get around to having Bleeding Cool removed from my pulls. Occasional decent articles, but nothing worth the $4.99, and it’s gonna drive me nuts eventually trying to find where all the issues scattered for the OCD side of me!

weekly_haul_october_1st_2014b

The “second tier” stuff includes a freebee that looks like it came out months ago, and two $1 DC issues. The Batman one is “celebrating” 75 years of Batman, with one of these $1 issues each month through the end of the year or so. The Flash one is obviously timed to coincide with the debut next Tuesday of the new Flash tv series.

I grabbed Futures End to be one less issue to track down later, and spotted the 3D edition of the Wonder Woman issue, so figured I’d get it to read part 1 of the 2-parter that wrapped up in Superman/Wonder Woman.

Last Week’s Books Reviewed (Week of 9/24)

Over the weekend, I posted several reviews. Excerpts below, or click the cover/links to go to the full text of the reviews.

Futures End: Booster Gold #1

The “hope,” the potential weightiness of this single, short issue’s story…the possibility that I’ve just read a new Dan Jurgens story involving “my” Booster Gold…the attractive cover, the sturdiness of the physical cover…this all lends to the issue justifying itself and the $3.99 cover price (at least in this modern age of lesser-quality physical products for the price). Very definitely one of THE best issues of the month, and one I’d certainly recommend–whether the 3D edition or the standard cover edition.

 

 

Superman: Doomed #2

Superman: Doomed will probably make for a nice, thick hardcover collection, similarly thick paperback eventually…and really, that’s gonna be the way to go. If you haven’t followed stuff so far, just wait for the collected volume. If it’s priced around $30 for this entire thing, that will be quite a bargain compared to the price paid for the single issues involved, and will put the entire story between two covers instead of the umpteen ones across five-some months for the single issues.

 

Armor Hunters #4

Context is vital, and while there’s no gigantic singular event in this issue that in and of itself will HERE change the Valiant universe, if you’ve been following the whole thing or just this mini, or X-O Manowar, this is definitely an issue to get, not to be arbitrarily skipped for some random reason. It’s good and worthwhile, and a solid issue in itself. Of course, if you have not been following anything associated with this, it would thus be a rather strange-ish point to attempt to jump into stuff, and I wouldn’t recommend it as a jumping-on point. (Yet every issue is bound to be SOMEONE’s first).

The Weekly Haul – Week of September 24th, 2014

Finally’ve reached the end of what has been a ridiculously-expensive month of comics with DC’s September ‘event’ done with this week’s batch of books.

weekly_haul_september_24th_2014a

I’m not even sure if there’s a Booster Gold series in the works, or if he’s truly just got a one-shot here, given Futures End is a time-travel thing…but while $3.99 will tick me off and probably discourage it, I’d like to think I’d consider an ongoing again. I picked up Sinestro and Harley Quinn just ‘cuz they were there…figured I could at least check ’em out like this. And Red Lanterns since I got the other Lantern books, might as well get the whole “set.” Next to the Booster Gold cover, that Superman cover is probably my favorite of the bunch, and I’m hoping the issue deals with the “origin” of the mask and such–at least in that I don’t recall it being dealt with in the Futures End series itself while I was reading.

weekly_haul_september_24th_2014b

I figured I’d already checked out the Prometheus issue, I’d get the first Aliens issue of this new Fire and Stone thing. However, finding out it’s essentially just a big 4-mini-series “event” leaves me thinking I may pass on the single issues in favor of collected editions…and the “hope” of one big single collection of the entire thing, whether hardcover or the standard Dark Horse Omnibus size in paperback.

Doomed #2 finally makes its appearance at least a month late. And Armor Hunters concluded “officially” despite an aftermath issue next month and the (presumable) longer-term after-effects it leaves on the X-O Manowar book at minimum.

Definitely looking forward to getting back to smaller weeks again…this was the second week I didn’t even DARE look at the quarter-bins…those DC books really ate up a lot more than I “bargained” for this month.

The Weekly Haul – Week of September 17th, 2014

Another monstrous week price-wise…outside of Batman Eternal and the $1 reprint/special edition of Gotham Central #1 (perfectly timed for Monday’s premiere of Gotham) (and the freebie Banned Books Week guide), everything was that price point I so despise…but at least they were the spiffy 3-D covers that sucked me in again this year!

weekly_haul_september_17th_2014a

And of course, perhaps conspicuously so, one might notice the absence again of anything from Marvel. Such a shame, especially considering how much I enjoyed the X-Men in the ’90s and certain parts of other stuff in the last 10-12 years.

weekly_haul_september_17th_2014b

Definitely a good-looking crop of the DC 3-D books for Futures End this week. Might be the classic-looking yellow-and-red logo against the blue field, but I think that Supergirl cover is my favorite this week.  I wasn’t going to pick up Batman/Superman…but figured it’s a one-shot, already spending a lot for the week, it’s Batman, and Superman…so I might as well add it to the pile.

So here’s to a lot of interesting reading and the third of four weeks of getting fairly deeply re-acquainted with a bunch of DC output.

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