Thursday, August 7, 2014
XO Man-O-War #1, #2, and #3 (New Valiant)
XO Man-O-War was the first series that Valiant Comics started in their line-up of classic series remakes, and it's a very strong series to open your company on! XO is a sci-fi action series about an ancient Visigoth fighting spider aliens. Sounds appealing? Well it is a concept that can be horribly misused (see, my reviews for the original series), but when it's done well, it's done well! Tonight I'll be reviewing what's technically the first arc, Issues #1 to #3.
Oh, and yes, I'm aware that the title is not spelled how I'm spelling it. I graduated English for a reason, and that reason is to not abide crap like this!
In 410 A.D., the Visigoths are being decimated by the Roman empire. Feircely opposing them is heir to the Visigoth throne Aric of Dacia, who engages the Romans in battle, losing his father in the process. When he goes back to his home camp, he discovers it's been ransacked by the Romans, and his wife has been kidnapped along with countless others of his people. That night, he takes a small force to attack the Romans, and comes across a strange convoy. However, it's not Romans the Visigoths are attacking, but spider-like aliens known as the Vine, who are on Earth to take slaves. Aric and his comrades are quickly defeated, taken onboard a spaceship and flown into space, to a massive colony ship, where he and his fellow Visigoths are forced to work in massive gardens, as the Vine hold plant-life reverently.
Years after their capture, Aric sets up a rebellion to escape Vine confinement and reach what he thinks to be an armoury. Inside, he finds the Shanhara armour, a holy relic watched over by an order of priests. Unbeknownst to Aric, anyone who has tried to put the armour on dies horribly, but it doesn't matter, as Shanhara bonds with its new Visigoth host, giving him the power to retaliate against the brutal Vine with extreme vengeance...
This is a very good opening issue to the series, and establishes plenty, quite nicely. The best thing is the pacing. It covers many bases, from showing the Visigoth and Roman conflict (although not giving a very good reason why they're battling), to the battle and capture with the Vine, and the captive Visigoths on the colony ship.
At the start is a page with briefly talks about Visigoths and Romans, comparing statistics and whatnot. It also goes to the trouble of giving names for several Roman and Visigoth weapons...and features constant naming of specific weapons and devices not mentioned in the background page! Thankfully it's not that hard to work out what an Onager is.
While at this point we know very little about the series main character Aric of Dacia, but his actions and reactions do go a way to helping us feel for him, and want to see him win his struggle against the Vine. It's definitely an improvement over the original series' first issue, which gave us nothing. Aside from Gafti, who is basically a walking plank of wood, there are no other proper characters here, aside from Commander Trill, a recurring Vine foe.
The Vine are a cool looking race, and while we don't see a great deal of their brutality on display here, we do see what they do with human babies (abduct them and replace them with genetically modified Vine babies, for infiltration). One slight problem though is that it's kinda nonsensical why some Vine wear nothing but a snazzy cape when they're a massively high-tech race!
Best to my knowledge, Classic Valiant never named the spider aliens. It just called them that and washed their hands of it, so I'm highly appreciative that the writers here weren't so lazy.
The artwork is very good, and while it doesclash with the art inside, the painted look of the cover is fantastic! What's drawn is also nice and detailed, rather than just a blank piece of meh with nothing but the hero standing...like the third issue to this very series! The cover has one problem, though-The huge annoying barcode! What the hell's it doing on the front cover?!
This is a great opener, and definitely worth reading!...
This is another good issue, but there's not much story here, which almost stretched my patience. There are definitely good qualities, regardless. For example, it actually holds weight when Aric takes the XO armour and rises up against his oppressor, because we've seen him kidnapped and brutally worked as a slave for many years, unlike Classic XO, which literally started off with him finding the armour, with no explanation or backstory for who Aric is (though his backstory was the same, and worst of all, the writers actually wrote the first issue as if you already knew, going so far to acknowledge events that the readers wouldn't understand 'till the #0 issue eventually came out over a year later!).
One kinda-shaky plot point is how Aric seems to get a map to the colony ship out-of-nowhere (in the respect that a random guy just happens to know the layout enough to draw the map), but at least he didn't find out about the armour from Elvis Presley, like in Classic Valiant...I am not joking!
When it comes to character, there's almost none, given how the majority of this takes place over such a short time. The issue starts off with a flashback, which helps to make us care a bit about the loss of Aric's wife Dierdre, who up until now, we'd never actually seen.
The art is still very good here. I especially like the gardens of the Vine colony ship, which have very neat visuals and colours. As for the cover, I'd might as well copy and paste my thoughts on #1's to describe how I feel about it.
While the series has been taking its sweet ass time getting to the point (and that point is Aric taking the XO armour), it's not like this issue outright wasted time...
...However, Issue #3 does waste its potential. There's literally no story at all here. Just 'Aric uses the armour to kill some aliens, then goes to Earth'. Sure, there is the scene with Gafti, but aside from that, there's nothing to this waste of an issue. A month of work and waiting, people! Hell, aside from artwork, there's nothing else I can say about this comic! I've literally said all that can be about the plot!
As usual, the artwork is good. The cover's decent (although it draws the Vine's mouths a bit too wide), but it suffers from a baffling problem. I assume #3's cover takes inspiration from the cover to the original XO #5, and in doing so, has the exact same problem as that cover did! Classic #5 is totally red, for no reason, and because of this, not only gets Aric's hair colour wildly wrong (to the point where it's hard to even tell that it's him), but also the colour of the armour itself, which it gets completely wrong! #3's imitation fares a bit better. Aric's hair style looks like something from Dragonball Z, while the XO armour looks like a wrinkled peach, but it does at least get Aric's hair colour right.
The series continues to have plentiful sound effects-CHOOM! CHOOM! WHAM! CH-BOOM! B-BOOOOOOM!!! The artists must really have been having a ball!
XO Man-O-War is a really good series, and I definitely recommend it, although if you're interested in getting into it, feel free to skip Issue #3.