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Catching up with Valiant: Harbinger, Bloodshot, and X-O Manowar

Harbinger #12

harbinger012Harbinger Wars continues, but we focus here on the interaction of the usual cast with the freed psiots and how everyone’s dealing with the stress of their current situation. We also see Toyo’s continued machinations as his plans for everyone continue to unfold.

In some ways, for a fairly casual reader, this story’s all over the place. I honestly don’t have a completely clear mental timeline of this “event”/crossover where I could simply rattle off a lengthy summation of The Story So Far.

However, somehow I’m continuing to enjoy the individual issues, in and of themselves, being aware that there’s an overall story going on. It’s sort of like missing an episode or two of a tv series, having read basic spoilers online, and continuing onward. It’ll be interesting to see how this thing’s collected–whether we’ll get a nice, thick 12-issue volume collecting the entire thing, or three separate volumes (one for each series involved).

Bloodshot #11

bloodshot011I’m finding some blurring in my mind as to what’s been happening in this title itself (ditto Harbinger). Yet the story’s been solid–as has the art–and I’m thoroughly enjoying the “bigger picture” nature of Harbinger Wars: the larger story, and things unfolding in three issues per month rather than just one or two.

This issue gives us an expanded scene on the Harada Protocol, where the core of Bloodshot’s programming is to kill Harada–including the use/display of previously unknown abilities including a brainwave EMP and being able to puke the nanites into another person.

The story and art continue to be good, and as I actually read the issue, I enjoyed it; more than I can consciously reiterate details of the plot contained within this one issue. I’ve already been “spoiled” as to upcoming changes for this title that leave me a little curious…it’ll be interesting to see how things go, but it sorta sucks to already be thinking about that with two more issues to go with this current event/story.

X-O Manowar #13

xomanowar013This issue’s–I believe–the penultimate chapter of Planet Death, as I seem to recall #s 9 & 10 were to be “prologue” and the entire thing 6 chapters including those.

Aric finds himself faced with unforeseen choices as what should have–to him–been black and white is muddied gray once he’s had time on the Vine homeworld. There’s something to this issue that reminds me vaguely of classic Superman stuff, with Kandor and all–and it’ll be interesting to see how things actually play out in the next issue, as I think the issue after that involves the Eternal Warrior.

Nord‘s art continues to fit the character well, though I find that some pages seem rather light on detail while others look very good. Overall looking forward to the next issue, and quite glad to see this series last not only a full year, but seeing it on track for beyond.

X-O Manowar #10 [Review]

xomanowar010Prelude to Planet Death Part Two of Two

Writer: Robert Venditti
Art: Trevor Hairsine
Colorist: Brian Reber
Letterer: Dave Lanphear
Cover Artistis: Trevor Hairsine and Cary Nord
Assistant Editor: Josh Johns
Executive Editor: Warren Simons
Published by: Valiant Entertainment
Cover Price: $3.99

We open this issue on a flashback, to young Aric and Gafti training in a field, ending with a show of brotherhood and declaration that someday they’ll be known the fiercest Visigoths to ever swing a sword. We then shift back to the present, where Aric faces Vine commander Trill holding forth the tortured, barely-alive body of his old friend. After some strong words back and forth, Aric engages Trill in battle, while the Vine invasion begins. One battle ended, Aric gives up the X-O armor that it might heal Gafti as it did him–only the pain leaves Gafti in another state of mind entirely…one that could cost an entire planet its life.

Even before anything visual sets in, I noticed the paper quality of this issue is significantly better than some of the earlier issues of the series–while at least a couple of the issues seemed positively (forgive the term) floppy…this feels like a very sturdy paper stock…which is a lot more befitting of a $3.99 single-issue!

Visually, this is quite a solid issue–even with all the action, I was able to follow along without really having to disengage from the story to exert any concerted effort on interpreting the art. The “changing of the guard” where the armor bonds with Gafti–and the resultant look of the armor is striking yet subtle. No real problem for me with the issue’s art.

The story itself is fairly simplistic on the surface–an Earthman fighting a commander of the Vine, then Earthman vs. Earthman with alien armor, then Earthman vs. more aliens.

But–if you’ve been reading the series, Aric and Gafti have a deeper history than the two-page flashback in this issue, and that history is felt as the characters interact here; ditto the history between Trill and Aric. This issue truly grows from what we’ve read throughout this entire series so far–it’s all led here, and this into the next major arc.

While I would like to see X-O a bit more “grounded” and relatable; with a “standard” supporting cast and all that…it’s an instinctual desire, I think; and AS I think on it, I also recognize that this is a very personal sort of story–of Aric and just a handful of people around him. We’re seeing and aware of more than just Aric’s point of view, yet for the most part, this series on the whole has stuck rather firmly to Aric and those immediate “contacts” in his life as well as the “ghosts” of his memories.

I’ve toyed with dropping the Valiant books from my monthly pulls solely due to pricing and a kneejerk backlash against the $3.99 price point from all publishers…but then I remind myself that even with the Valiant “cluster” of multiple books in one week with other weeks devoid of all Valiant…I’m actually reading the early part of a shared universe contained in only 5 books per month, with any doubling up being a one-shot special issue, rather than 3-6 titles that then ship a second issue the same month.

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