The Valiant Universe is really like no other shared superhero universe. If you’re really honest with yourself Marvel and DC books have a united tone throughout their comics. Really it’s the narration and creator’s talent that sets a few of their titles a part, but largely due to the editorial there is a set tone. With Valiant, each book has its own tone and that largely comes from the writers. For instance, X-O Manowar is like a world politics book with a dash of space. It really began when Aric landed in Romania and took back the land that was his before he was taken from earth by the Vine. Since then, and maybe even before then, the series has had a balance of superheroics and politics.
“Exodus” is very topical. The Vine have returned to earth seeking safe haven, but there’s fractions of the Vine still in line with the old regimes conquerer mindset. This has put Aric in the position of mediator as he must protect his people, earth and now the Vine and all of them from each other. The Vine being the very species that is responsible for his initial kidnapping and coincidentally, the reason he lost his land and invaded Romania.
In issue #41, we find the former Vine leader, Commander Trill, leading the Plantings which are human looking Vine that have been among the humans for generations. Tensions are high as the Vine are on the verge of attack and the U.S. Government is on high alert of yet another alien invasion. Aric is forced to keep the balance, but like all political stories all it takes is one bullet to start a war.
This issue is a fast read. It repeats a bit of the last issue in which Aric is still trying to keep both parties from fighting, but he doesn’t know that there are Plantings interfering with his mediation. Not until it’s too late at least. Robert Venditti is producing some very tense issues. It’s so tense you should be uncomfortable reading it. For the reader we’re constantly left wondering when the other shoe will drop. We can see it because Venditti is showing us everything happening in the story which only adds to the tension.
The artwork is still incredibly strong. Rafa Sandoval is another of Valiant’s top artists and really you have to wonder why other companies can’t seem to lock in good artists the way Valiant does. Anyway, Sandoval continues to deliver photorealistic pages which also adds to that tension I keep mentioning. When the Planting has Saana in his sights there’s a bit of terror. I can’t imagine what Aric would do if she were to die and if it looked like the government did it. Perhaps we’ll see that. Otherwise, the artwork continues to shine in this series making it feel like an event book more than issue 41 in an ongoing series.
New readers should not start here, but if you’ve been reading the series then get ready for some serious reveals and consequences coming up. The stage is set for something dramatic to happen in the next issue which I will be looking forward to.
X-O Manowar #41 Writer: Robert Venditti Artist: Rafa Sandoval Publisher: Valiant Comics Price: $3.99 Release Date: 10/14/15 Format: Ongoing; Print/Digital