Thursday, 24 October 2013

X-O Manowar, Volume 4: Homecoming by Robert Venditti and Lee Garbett Review

Four books in and I would’ve expected – and understood – a dip in quality but it seems Robert Venditti is a long way from done with his epic tale of a barbarian from the stars. Aric has freed his surviving Visigoths from the alien Vine, commandeering one of their spacecrafts, and returned everyone to Earth. Except he’s landed the ship on the site of his former home of Dacia - modern day Romania –just outside Bucharest, and the move looks distinctly troublesome. Alien spacecraft invading, annexing land, led by a warrior wearing one of the most powerful weapons in the universe? Aric has attracted a lot of unwanted attention – and the Eternal Warrior needs to do something about it before things escalate further. 

Valiant’s XO Manowar series continues to impress, mostly because I see the covers – often of Aric fighting - and I’m reminded of the story – of a fighter wearing an Iron Man suit fighting people – and I underestimate the intelligence behind the books. Venditti gives XO Manowar an intelligence it could easily get away with not having, like focusing on details like Aric’s people and how 5th century folk respond to 21st century society, or the impressions of the rest of the world on Aric’s sudden appearance on the world stage. You’ll see what I mean when you read it and these might be small scenes but are essential in making this a richer, more enjoyable story overall.

The main thrust of the book is Aric’s response to the modern world, our world. Gilad, the Eternal Warrior (whose own solo title recently launched), turns out to be a former mentor of Aric’s and Venditti masterfully uses flashback scenes at pivotal moments to build up the history and dramatic tension between the characters. There’s great action as the two face off, though there’s also excellent dialogue surrounding the scene too so it’s not merely a big dumb superhero fight. Then there’s the climactic battle between NATO Forces and Aric’s people in what I thought was to be a sure-fire massacre but Venditti managed to surpass my expectations again in a brilliant finale. 

If you’ve been enjoying the series so far, XO Manowar, Volume 4: Homecoming is another hit you’re going to enjoy. Venditti has shifted Aric’s attentions away from alien slavemasters to humanity and ratcheted up the stakes as a result. With great art as ever from Lee Garbett, Homecoming is an excellent continuation of the hit series that sets up Valiant’s big event series, Unity, as Aric and his people take on Valiant’s first super-powered team! Even though Venditti’s not writing Unity, if it’s only half as good as this series, it’ll be one hell of an event!

X-O Manowar Volume 4: Homecoming

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