This prelude to Planet Death has been awesome. In itself, it's an amazing story line. Admiral Xylem has Gafti, a childhood friend of Aric, hostage. Can Aric stop Xylem and save his friend? How will the events of this issue lead to Planet Death?
Holy crap, this is a really good issue. I wasn't sure what Planet Death truly meant, until I read this issue. Will The Vine's invasion of Earth be Planet Death or is Aric returning to the Vine home world to destroy their world? It seems those questions are answered here, and without spoiling anything, it's going to be epic. However, this whole issue is epic. It's like a Scottish sword fight on top of a flying saucer, in a hurricane.
Speaking of epic, while I made had some problems with Trevor Hairsine's art. There is one thing he does better than most other artists: establishing shots. I love how he sets up each scene, especially from page one where a young Aric and Gafti are sword fighting, He does an amazing job with the scenes in space as well. I love the way the ships look and the great sense of depth he shows there. Hairsine does wonders with these shots that set the scene and the tone for the rest of the book.
Writer Robert Venditti has been doing an amazing job with this book. He's building up to what's going to be an epic battle, and it really starts here. We are treated to some fantastic fight scenes which range from great one on one battles to large-scale space battles. It's one very exciting issue.
Aric has to make some tough choices here in order to save the world and save his friend. It's interesting to see how the armor reacts to different people wearing it. Aric isn't just special because he's a human and can wear the X-O Manowar armor. There's something else there. It lets him take more control over it. While Aric may be just a warrior, there's a soft side to him which really drives the character and his decisions, which we get a lot of here. If he hasn't become one of your favorite characters yet, he will by the end of this issue.
My only real problem with the issue is Trevor Hairsine's art. It's not bad, by any means, but it is a tad "rougher" at times. It's just not my favorite. The facial expressions, in close-ups, tend to be a bit too exaggerated for my liking. There's also a lot of grimacing and teeth clenching throughout the issue.
I'm a bit down the middle with Gafti here. He is a pivotal role in this issue and the overall plot,
X-O Manowar delivers 500CCs of awesomeness to your brain, which you will overdose on an die, but it was a good death. It was an honorable death. You will be remembered.
The build up to the upcoming Planet Death story has been downright amazing. It's set the bar pretty darn high. Venditti is doing wonders on this series, and this issue is proof of that. You will have a ton of fun reading it, and once again, it's my favorite series currently at Valiant. On the downside, I had a few problems with Hairsine's art here, but nothing too major.
Overall, I highly recommend this issue.