Out this week, X-O Manowar #4 wraps up the first story arc since his refresh under Dennis Hopeless and Emilio Laiso. The third issue was a great example of how this hero has so much potential. The stakes were raised, the suit upgraded, and the plot very well thickened. Now that the climax is ready for delivery, the fourth issue wraps things up while pressing forward in an entertaining way.
This issue opens with Vlad Yakiov taking his Ukrainian rebel army directly to Aric’s neighborhood. It was an unexpected move and it’s also a trap. It’s all a bit fishy though since Troy Whitaker has gotten into Aric’s ear about being better with PR around the globe. Be the hero they want you to be so that you can truly help everyone. Or so Aric is lead to believe. This issue does well to show how Aric can use his brains over brawn though he’s not afraid to use brawn when needed. About half the book is about this conflict, which gives the first story arc a satisfying conclusion.
The second half has everything to do with Whitaker and Aric’s relationship with him. Hopeless does enough here to build on a mystery brought up in previous issues that may tap into something off Earth tied to Aric’s suit. Ultimately there is a fascinating power dynamic between Whitaker and Aric that has put Aric in a susceptible position and one to keep an eye on as the story moves forward. The last few pages of this book do a lot of work to make you want more from this creative team and many will likely be dying for more especially since we have to wait till August to get the next issue.
Splitting the book like this does feel a bit awkward as if it was two-issue ideas slapped together, but it serves to close the door and wrap things up before the book takes a hiatus. The only other gripe I can see is how Whitaker’s scene near the end doesn’t add a lot beyond set things up. The way he’s using Aric isn’t progressed.
Art by Laiso with colors by Ruth Redmond gets at the brutal core of the war in American city streets in the opening pages. The realism in the opening is aided by the slight angle on most panels as if something peculiar is going on. While Yakiov’s army attempts to kill Aric, the rendering of Yakiov is well done with good expressions and appropriate over the top bad-guy vibes. Detailing in Manowar’s suit is solid too, like how it slowly forms around him or how Aric’s face looks through the visor. Props to the final action scene which renders the enemy in an epic way through scale and weirdness.
Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou’s letters continue to be creative in many different ways. A “room” sound effect literally shakes under the pressure Aric is taking and word balloons continue to wrap around characters at opportune times. The shape of the balloon changes as needed which adds another layer to the reading experience as you attempt to glean meaning from even casual scenes.
After speaking to Hopeless himself and reading this issue I’m 100% on board for more X-O Manowar. The third and fourth issues have done an exceptional job to raise up the narrative, the stakes, and the complexity of this character. There are dynamics in play that are intriguing and add so much potential to this superhero seeking public approval.
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