Tuesday, January 13, 2015

XO Man-O-War #18, #19, and #20 (Classic Valiant)

The C.I.A. have grown deeply concerned with recent events involving aliens and superhumans. They make the connection between a mysterious man in a seemingly alien suit of armour to equally mysterious businessman Aric Dacia, who showed up out of nowhere less than a couple of years ago. After attempted negotiations with Dacia fail, the C.I.A. kidnap him, taking him to the Arctic, where they begin to set Project Deep Freeze into motion...

This story is one of the better ones in this series. It's got a clear conflict, a very neat setting, and the pacing is pretty damn good! Unfortunately it's not without problems. There's a serious lack of suspense, as nothing the villains ever throw at Aric and his armour is ever enough to even dent him. The third issue in this story is titled The Consequences, which is amusing, given how little consequence there are to the avalanche/cave-in cliffhanger, which Aric blasts his way out of and escapes in just two panels!

Another problem is that these three issues are almost all action, and the potentially interesting plot is really only loose framing for things going boom a lot.

This at least isn't terribly written, and while I groaned at the 'subtle' foreshadowing regarding the Arctic C.I.A. base's large field of fuel drums, thankfully it pays off in a way different to how you'd expect. Yeah, it gets blown up, but by its owners, in a bid to destroy the XO armour, which is a much less cliched route for the writers to take than having it be an obvious deus ex machina for Aric.

Aric is a Mary Sue protagonist here, and he's not all that interesting. Come the story's end, he's disgusted enough with the modern world that he goes on a sabbatical, leaving his XO armour behind, yet none of the events in the story felt bad enough to warrant such action from him. He's been through worse crap than this a dozen times before!

New character Randy was introduced a few issues ago, but hasn't had any part in the plots until now, where she becomes a main character. She's tolerable, but of course, she ends up as the Damsel in Distress! This is annoying enough, given she's a more-than-able head of security and ex-mercenary/secret service agent, but it's borderline insulting once you learn her backstory a few issues later! Thankfully the first time this happens, the scene at least establishes her strong friendship with Paul more. I can't say this for the following times it happens, however.

The villains of this story are dull. Garret is a bureaucratic bad guy, and holds zero threat to Aric, while the specialized super squad is just bland cannon fodder, and not even member Sirot, who shows up in his own series later, gets any personality.

Recurring character Paul Bouvier first appears this storyline, and he's a likeable badass! Unfortunately the story forgets all about him halfway though. When Randy's going to Antarctica, Paul offers to accompany her, but she declines, saying "Definitely not. I'm gonna need your help from here"...He is never mentioned again for the entirety of the story!

I mentioned before how this story ended with Aric going on a sabbatical from everything, including the armour. I really wish that this storyline would've permanently retired him, and replaced him with Paul Bouvier. It'd make sense, as for several issues now, Aric has become increasingly jaded about the modern world , and yearns for a simple life with Turok, living quietly and hunting peacefully, far away from modern society. His story really has been told as far as it can go. Having been introduced several issues ago, and slowly characterized, Randy could help to be a bridging gap between Aric and Paul, and once we'd get to know him, he could become the new XO come the story's end. As for why I'm instantly suggesting Paul as a new XO rather than seemingly more obvious pick Randy, that's because I actually like him, while Randy is dullsville!

The art here is decent, and some imagery, such as the Arctic base, and the briefly seen Project Deep Freeze, are interesting to look at. The covers are mixed though. #18's is ok, but a bit chaotic. On #19's, Aric is too small, the blank void on the bottom is not appreciated, and neither is the fact that the cover spoils the issue's ending! #20's is pretty decent, though the segmented armor and outlined ass crack gives the unintentionally hilarious quality of making Aric seem to be in an XO thong!

This trio of issues is a bit of a waste of time, but one of the higher points of this series regardless...

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