There’s things to like about this issue and things to feel indifferent about. It’s not a bad issue by any means, but it definitely comes across as a stumble after the last story arc. On the plus side of things, Ninjak is in the issue and Robert Venditti writes a strong characterization for him. Ninjak “The Prick” is one of the best things about the new Valiant Universe. The “Kill List” storyline is about an actual kill list. We’re introduced to it in an awkward way when a leading geneticist is set to give a big speech and his phone is hacked and chimes in front of the crowd. A threatening message is placed on the screen and then it explodes. We then see X-O and Ninjak standing together in the rafters.
It’s strange because this isn’t that thrilling, but rather confusing. It makes the two leads come across as cold, calculated killers and that’s not the wrong sentiment to have about them. Leading you to wonder why they’re presenting it as if we’ve got the wrong idea about what they’re there to do?
The issue then backtracks which is story device I hate. Especially with how soft the opening was, it doesn’t make much sense to lead with that and go back to the past and show the reader what made these two climb the rafters and no it wasn’t so they could zip-line to the ring and deliver some well-timed lariats. The gist is that a “good” Planting has a list of “bad” Plantings and X-O and Ninjak are going to kill them to get to Commander Trill.
What’s bold is the fact that these two are going to un-apologetically kill these Plantings. The last time that was done was during Marvel’s Siege. But here we have two heroes doing the deed. It adds an interesting layer to X-O for sure. It’s a plus and a negative at the end of the day, but we’ll see how it plays out.
The pacing is choppy and the issue checks in with too many random characters. We’re introduced to a new team of knock-off X-O’s and the entire opening takes a lot longer than it should. On the plus side is X-O and Ninjak’s interaction. Particularly when X-O won’t look away from Ninjak because of the events in Book of Death in which it was revealed that Ninjak had devised a contingency plan to kill X-O. There’s also a scene between a Visgoth and Vine child, that while unnecessary, was quite good.
The art is okay. Robert Gill’s art looks off this time around. X-O’s helmet looks skin tight at times and his frame is boxy and weird. Also the gold part of his suit looks like more like the muscle structure of the Visible Man. I struggle to describe the inconsistencies with the faces. Several times the characters look bored or confused as to what they’re doing. The action is the shining grace, it’s very dynamic and a presentation fitting of the series.
The scale really tips back and forth for me on this issue. I liked it, but it definitely has some problems. They’re small, but they add up. Pacing here, weird story elements there. In the end it’s an enjoyable issue if you’ve been reading the series, but really it’s almost to issue 50 so if you’re reading it you’ll likely to continue reading it no matter what. Don’t worry, it’s worth reading. There could be some interesting things to come from this and at the very least it tells me that our heroes are a bit more “anti” than I gave them credit for. If you’re just starting X-O Manowar with this issue, it’s going to be a little rough, but not impossible to follow. Otherwise, keep reading.
X-O Manowar #43 Writer: Robert Venditti Artist: Robert Gill Publisher: Valiant Comics Price: $3.99 Release Date: 1/6/16 Format: Ongoing; Print/Digital