While the Ninjak bookends of this issue are pretty awesome, the star of the show here is the battle between Volo and Aric. This battle has been building up for the past few issues since Volo led the Visigoths on Loam, and now that they're on Earth, Volo is not too keen on giving his power away to Aric.
The battle we're left with is incredibly brutal, since both men go toe-to-toe without the use of their mechanized suits. It's the type of brutality, without the death, that we've seen in earlier issues. Writer Robert Venditti has a way of defining characters through how they act in violent situations. It's not just the words that make them who they are. It's their actions as well. On top of everything else, this builds a closer relationship between these two characters, who were both on the brink of being enemies. The power struggle seems over for now, and there is a working relationship between these characters, which is great because their both strong characters who fans love/will love.
The biggest change you'll notice on this book is that artist Cary Nord is doing everything including the color. While there's a few problems with it (see below), overall it is a new and visually exciting experience for this series. It's a big departure from what readers are used to, but the way Nord uses color is interesting. It's not as vibrant as we've seen in the past, but it works incredibly well and really changes things up in this book.
Nord's art, during the previously mentioned action sequences, really stands out as well. Both Volo and Aric have these brutish stances and you can almost hear the punches hit the flesh, and hear their heavy breathing as Aric stands above a fallen Volo.
The art is a bit of split here. Because Cary Nord is doing the pencils and colors, a lot is lost in the way of detail. In the past, Nord has Moose Baumann working on colors, so Nord (I'm assuming) had more time to work on things like background art and detail. During the later fight scenes, Nord uses a lot of negative space in the backgrounds. It's just white. While it really makes the reader focus on the action happening, it would be nice to see something in these backgrounds instead of plain white.
Sometimes Nord nails it with the colors, and a few times, it's a bit of a let down, especially on the final page.
X-O MANOWAR #19 is a fine tie-in to UNITY, but not really a necessary one. Long time fans will really enjoy seeing Volo and Aric beating the heck out of each other, which Venditti has been setting up since the Visigoths got back to Earth. Nord does all the artwork, including color, himself, and while overall, it's a very exciting experience, there's a few small misses here and there. Overall, X-O MANOWAR is tiramisu, delicious, filling, and something to look forward to, unless you hate delicious desserts. I highly recommend this issue.