Friday, 30 January 2015

XO Manowar, Volume 8: Enter: Armorines Review (Robert Venditti, Diego Bernard)

Yikes, XO Manowar has gone downhill lately! It used to be a great series. The first four volumes were awesome because they were this self-contained, compelling narrative of Aric fighting the alien Vine to free his enslaved Visigoth people. 

After the first four volumes, Valiant adopted the ways of Marvel/DC, introducing crossovers with the rest of the Valiant universe and Event books to XO Manowar. So the fifth volume was full of Unity tie-ins, the sixth was a prelude to their 2014 summer Event, Armor Hunters, the seventh book was a miscellanea of issues from the main Armor Hunters storyline (which was basically an XO Manowar book in itself), and now the eighth is a limp post-Armor Hunters story called Enter: Armorines. 

Valiant continue to ape Marvel/DC with a #0 issue that adds nothing to the existing story and is a complete waste of time. In this pointless issue we learn about young Aric back in the 5th century learning to fight and ending in the present day, post-Armor Hunters. This issue is especially needless and stupid for two reasons: 1) we don’t need flashbacks to Aric’s past as writer Robert Venditti has been doing this in nearly every issue of the series so far – we already know everything there is to know about Aric’s past, and 2) if you took this chronologically as the issue that preceded XO Manowar #1 in the reboot (as it’s numbering would suggest), it wouldn’t make sense because of the allusions to the Armor Hunters storyline which didn’t happen until 25+ issues into the series!

Most of these Valiant books are only four issues so with 25% of the book taken up with a non-story, the remaining three issue-storyline feels even shorter than it is – worse, it’s super boring too! Basically: a billionaire industrialist called Zahn who enjoys booze, redheaded secretaries and armored suits (who’s totally not a copy of Tony Stark) begins manufacturing tons of armors (which don’t look like Iron Man armors), including a bunkerbuster armor (that definitely doesn’t look like Hulkbuster armor). 

Besides setting up the Armorines, a kind of not at all Iron Man-esque military taskforce that takes on “peacekeeping” missions in warzones like the Middle East, Zahn is tasked with checking out Aric and Shanhara to bring assurance to the rest of the world that they won’t turn into a mindless unstoppable killing machine. 

So the same storyline that’s been playing out in XO Manowar since Aric returned to Earth with Shanhara? Great. Zahn and his taskforce of armored marines, or Armorines, fight Aric, they lose, that’s it. It’s a remarkably unremarkable story. Every aspect of it is predictable from how the fight between Aric and Zahn would go, to why his secretary was asking him to repeatedly sign papers (is she up to something?). 

Clay Mann’s art on the #0 issue was really good and Diego Bernard’s work on the rest of the book is very strong. It’s just a shame that Robert Venditti is now churning out generic, uninteresting tat that’s turned a once-great title into a disappointingly mediocre one. Enter: Armorines is down there with Prelude to Armor Hunters as the weakest entries in the XO Manowar series.

XO Manowar, Volume 8: Enter: Armorines

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