Wednesday, 2 October 2013

X-O Manowar, Volume 3: Planet Death by Robert Venditti, Cary Nord and Trevor Hairsine Review

After repelling the Vine’s invasion of Earth, Aric, together with Shanhara the sentient X-O Manowar armour, takes the fight to the Vine homeworld in an attempt to end the threat to Earth and free his people, as well as every other race captured by the Vine, from enslavement. What happens next? The title says it all: Planet Death.

That said, even if there is a lot of fighting in this book, it’s a surprisingly deeper read than you’d expect. I mentioned in a review of an earlier volume that writer Robert Venditti has portrayed the Vine – the spider-faced aliens who abducted Aric – as more than just the villains of the piece, and he continues to write them as more complex and interesting characters than simply one-dimensional bad guys fulfilling a role. 

A lot of the book goes into exploring the Vine culture and divided peoples, some of whom favour war, others who prefer a more peaceful solution, and both groups of people will suffer Aric’s wrath. It’s a gifted writer who can have you sympathizing with a supposedly villainous race and actually feeling pangs of sadness at seeing them die, and Venditti is nothing if not gifted.

Aric’s character continues to be explored too as he’s confronted with an old friend whom we met in the first volume and has reappeared here in altered form. Aric’s response is impressively noble and broadens his character from that of his seemingly thoughtless fighter, ask-questions-later persona. Cary Nord and Trevor Hairsine contribute amazing art to the book with Hairsine bringing his robust style to the Planet Death prologue and Nord showing us why he’s an award-winning illustrator with his action set pieces. 

This is a book that doesn’t need to be as smart as it is, and yet it is. The cover, the title, the main character, all put you in mind of a brainless slug-fest and, yes there are some fantastic fight sequences, but the characters are well written and at Volume 3 in the series are definitely well rounded and realistic - even the aliens! 

The story is completely engaging and is a fascinating one that straddles the line between fantasy, sci-fi and superheroes, taking elements from all genres and creating something original. X-O Manowar is just a remarkable series that’s well worth your time - Volume 3 is another success in the series and, having switched to the monthlies now, I can only say the series continues to be of a high quality. Well done, Valiant and co!

X-O Manowar Volume 3: Planet Death

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