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X-O Manowar #26 [Review]

xomanowar026Tall Tales

Writer: Robert Venditti
Penciler: Diego Bernard
Inker: Alisson Rodrigues
Colorist: Brian Reber
Letterer: Dave Sharpe
Cover Artists: Clayton Crain and Trevor Hairsine
Assistant Editor: Josh Johns
Executive Editor: Warren Simons
Published by: Valiant
Cover Price: $3.99 ($5.99 Chromium Cover)

I’m not often a fan of the main character not being in a book, and for those solely reading this title, that could be a problem this issue. While this IS an issue of X-O Manowar, there’s no appearance or mention of Aric in this issue. Of course, technically, “X-O Manowar” is the armor’s designation whether Aric’s in it or not, but that puts us pretty close to “splitting hairs” territory for the moment. However, as one reading both this and the Armor Hunters mini (the whole ‘event’ for that matter), I have no problem with it, and at worst would liken it to a Marvel event where an ongoing book suddenly becomes “background detail” for a separate “event book.”

I’d said about Armor Hunters #1 that it felt like an issue of this title, and this issue feels like it could be a standalone Armor Hunters issue–even a #1 for an ongoing or such. This issue shows us the “origin” of Malgam and Reebo’s involvement with the Armor Hunters. We find them in a bar seeking their next job, where they stumble across one no one else will touch. Reasoning that if they take on what no one else would they could quickly make a name for themselves, they take it on. Of course, things don’t go at all as they’d planned, and they find themselves in the fight of their lives–for their lives–against a lone Armor…a fight that leads THEM to being the ones in the position of crazy-story-tellers others would mock.

As said, this issue feels to me like it could easily have been a #1 issue of some ongoing Armor Hunters series: we’re introduced to a couple characters, given some context of what they’re about, presented with a challenge, and given an epilogue after that chellenge that leads into What Comes Next. In that regard this would have been a very good first issue, leaving me interested in reading the next in order TO find out what comes next.

As such, as a 26th issue of an ongoing series, it would be easy to say this is misplaced. But for my own background, that’s about all I’ll give on that.

The art for this issue is consistent, clear, and easy to follow. I actually enjoyed the visuals–credit to the entire art team–and never found myself distracted or taken out of the “reading experience” due to anything funky with the art. While Malgam looks different–younger and not yet in a partial/beat-up armor–Reebo is quite recognizable and while the name isn’t as familiar to me yet his appearance IS. Suffice it, then, to say that I liked the art and found no particular fault in it this issue.

The story is quite good, offering us an origin story of Reebo and Malgam AS Armor Hunters, showing their first encounter with an Armor and their introduction to the Armor Hunters group. Since I’m “all-in” with the Armor Hunters event, I have little particular interest in what title contains what story elements in general as long as it has some sort of relation to the overall AH saga. But then, even if one is attempting solely to read X-O Manowar, given that Armor Hunters comes out of this title and holds significant bearing on this title, I see no great problem with this story falling in this issue. While this contextualizes the Armor Hunters mini, I also do not figure it’s any far cry to suspect this will play into later events within X-O Manowar itself, despite Aric not even appearing in this issue.

Though the cover usually doesn’t hold much bearing on my buying an issue when it’s part of something I’m getting “anyway” or that’s on my pull-list…this has gotta be one of my favorite covers of this series, and quite iconic to me of the Armor Hunters event in general. There’s just something to this imagery–of the planet about to blow, the armor racing away, its wearer obviously not happy–that just totally fits for me. That this is a larger than usual image (being a wrap-around cover and all) adds to the whole, and is a nice ‘bonus’ for holding the standard $3.99 cover price. (The chromium edition cover is $2 more at $5.99).

While I’d had no real intention of buying any of the chromium editions after my disappointment in the chromium edition of Armor Hunters #1, I’d forgotten that I’d requested ’em with my local comic shop, so this is the 3rd of the 6 for me, so while the chromium aspect does not–for me–hold up to the quality and appearance of chromium covers from the 1990s, I’m gaining a grudging appreciation for these, in and of themselves.

I really enjoyed this issue on the whole, and while I’ll admit there’s something to be said for its freshness and simply being “the latest chapter,” I think I can safely say it’s one of my favorite issues of the series so far, and another great part of this Armor Hunters epic.

Readers seeking to avoid Armor Hunters will likely have a reasonable disappointment in this issue, while those picking this up BECAUSE of Armor Hunters should find this to be a great piece of the overall picture. While having read earlier X-O Manowar stuff and certainly Armor Hunters #1 will lend further context and significance to this issue, one really does not have to have read any previous issues of X-O Manowar to jump in with this issue if one has read Armor Hunters #1.

I’m very much looking forward to what we get in the next issue, as well as further tie-ins to the overall Armor Hunters event, thanks to this issue!

xomanowar026wraparound

Valiant Chromium Returns: Armor Hunters #1

It’s been some twenty years since I first got a copy of the original X-O Manowar #0 from the original Valiant. It was the first “chromium” cover I recall, though it was soon followed by the likes of Superman #82 (the “return” of Superman), X-Men: Alpha, X-Men: Omega, Ninjak #1, and others.

In more recent years, such “enhanced covers” have been pretty few and far between, in my observation (though can’t go two steps without tripping over variants!). [EDITED TO ADD: Last September’s 3-D covers from DC obviously were a huge quantity of such covers, but that was a specific event and really beside the point of this post]

When Valiant announced it was bringing back the chromium covers for Armor Hunters #1 and several of the tie-ins…I was actually sorta enthused (QUITE the exception to my usual attitude toward variants and such). But then, these chromium covers hold a certain nostalgia for me beyond all the other gimmicky/”enhanced” covers.

both_armor_hunters_covers

Unfortunately, I found myself rather disappointed in this particular version of “chromium.” Taken side-by-side, I feel like there’s clearer detail on the regular cover (pictured above on the right).

compare01

Comparing this new Armor Hunters #1 to X-O Manowar #0, I feel like the classic takes the win as well, between the two with brighter, bolder detail and coloring. Granted, that may not be so much the fault of the chromium effect, but it’s there.

compare02

At an angle, the new seems more reflective, picking up glare from an overhead light in a way that somewhat obscures details where the old does not…

…to say nothing of the imprinting showing through on the new where it doesn’t the old.

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Armor Hunters #1–at an angle in the light–gets this dotted, sparkly effect going on.

xo00shiny

At the same sort of angle, X-O Manowar #0 does not give that effect.

To me, part of what made chromium covers what they are was being able to see the outlines on the inside/back of the cover. Armor Hunters does have that effect, so unlike Marvel‘s Age of Ultron #1 last year, I can’t really “disqualify” it from my own personal “chromium collection.” But the muted coloring/subdued tones, the “flat” reflectiveness, and the thicker cover stock of Armor Hunters leaves me truly disappointed, and planning on sticking with the regular covers from here on out.

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