Valiant Comics kicked off the second story arc of X-O Manowar last month, and the story continues this week with X-O Manowar #6. Dennis Hopeless and Emilio Laiso have thrown Aric’s life into disarray as Shanhara, the sentient armor Aric wears, is sick, lost, or worse. Aric is essentially offline as a hero without his powers as she was attacked by nanites. In this week’s issue, Shanhara heals, Aric tries to get back into the swing of things, and things are not as they seem.
This issue could be subtitled “How Aric tried to get his groove back,” as he attempts to use his armor and consistently fails. Hopeless creates a weird vibe in the issue, not only with the suit doing things against Aric’s will, but also how the usually highly ethical Shanhara seems to be out of wack. Meanwhile, futurist Troy Whitaker keeps pushing Aric to use the suit in more and more dangerous situations. While it seems like Hopeless is scaling back Whitaker as an untrustworthy ally, his actions in this issue seem to suggest he has motives outside of Aric’s since he puts him in danger. That adds an interesting character dynamic to further explore.
If you’re looking for some creepy sci-fi elements, you’ve come to the right place. Something is certainly wrong, not just with Shanhara, but with the enemy Aric interacts with this issue. The entire team is doing a good job supplying X-O Manowar with a unique look and the story a feel that’s unlike anything else. In one scene, we get to see the future tech use holograms to make a game that looks very close to a certain Judge Dredd movie plot.
The techno-organic nature of Aric’s suit is also incredibly well done in this issue. Inks by Raffaele Forte and colors by Ruth Redmond continue to give the book a slightly gloomy feel that suits the scary situation the characters are in. The suit itself looks great with a fluid look when it’s losing control or going against Aric’s wishes.
Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou’s lettering is also well done. A subtle digital font used for an enemy gives an edge to their words, or in other cases the font weight increases as needed for emphasis. Word balloons in general always seem to add a little extra emphasis or artistry. In one panel, Aric says, “My arm! What are you doing!?” and the word balloon uses a wavy look that makes for a trippy way of saying the dialogue.
X-O Manowar #6 throws our hero into a rare situation where he’s not in full control and nobody knows what is really going on. The creative team is doing a good job establishing a dilemma for a hero who relies heavily on his suit and throwing him up against a weird sci-fi dilemma. It’s an issue that feels like it blends Iron Man and Swamp Thing in its technological sci-fi weirdness.
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