Review: X-O Manowar #50

xo_050_cover-b_riveraFor centuries, the sacred X-O Manowar armor has stood unrivaled as the universe’s most powerful weapon. Today, will it equal Earth’s doom? An unthinkable alien race known only as The Torment has come to our world in search of the armor’s secrets. Now, they stand opposed by Aric of Dacia – former slave, noble warrior, resolute king, and current master of the armor’s near-limitless capabilities. But is one man…and one weapon…enough to repel a force capable of leveling a thousand civilizations?

Well, this is it. The finale to the 50 issue saga of Valiant‘s longest running series. I want to get one thing out of the way before we go any further: if you haven’t started reading X-O Manowar yet, then you probably don’t want to start here.

Or do you? I’ll come back to that.

The final arc of the series has flown along at a break neck pace, which is fitting given the cataclysmic nature of The Torment, the world ending threat from space. Think Galactus but somehow worse, as not only will the destroy the world, they’ll take everything you are as well; mind, body and soul. I don’t typically like to talk about spoilers for the last issue, but I’m going to, so here’s your obligatory spoiler warning here, X-O Manowar was absorbed into one The Torment. It was, as I’m sure you can imagine, a somewhat shocking moment, but with the finale of the series coming up – and no announcement as to what would happen beyond the 50th  issue – it was entirely reasonable to expect a grand sacrifice to happen.

What we got instead, and this is the first couple of pages so I’m not spoiling much for #50, is something else entirely. Aric of Dacia embarks on a very interesting journey, told using various art teams to varying degrees of success; there’s a couple pages where the art isn’t as good as the rest of the comic, but it’s only a couple of pages. And when that’s my major gripe?

The main story is divided between Aric’s tranquil scenes within the Torment and those featuring the human/Vine alliance fighting the alien space gods. The latter scenes are best described as absolute chaos, and the contrast with the pages featuring Aric is harsh and jarring. Where one is almost peaceful and exploratory, the other is a frantic fight for survival as the tentative alliance tries to defend the planet they both want to call home.

The juxtaposition is wonderful, with the alternating scenes only serving to highlight the pace of the other in much the same way as peanut butter works so well with chocolate (and also on hamburgers – the peanut butter, that is. You should try the next time you have a barbecue,). Is this the finest comic that I’ve read from Robert Venditti? Well, the writer has given us some pretty fantastic stories over the years, so I won’t answer that, but what I will say is that – amazingly – he has delivered upon the expectations I had assumed would not be met with his conclusion to Long Live The King.

And then we have three other bonus stories (well, two and a bit) to factor in. All are interesting, and worth reading, but that’s not why you want to pick this comic up. Two of them are standalone stories from various points in Aric of Dacia’s life; one takes place probably five or six issues ago, and the other… could be about the same. There’s nothing within the story to easily gauge a time frame. The third is a hint as to what’s to come.

All three are cool additions to the main story, which is worth the price of admission alone. For that reason the numeric cores below will not include the bonus stories.

X-O Manowar #50 is one of the most rewarding, and satisfying, conclusions to a comic book story arc that you’re ever likely to read. Plot threads are wrapped up, bows are tied,  the saga is over, and my jaw is firmly on the floor. Remember my earlier question of whether you should start reading X-O Manowar with the final issue? It is possible to do that and still appreciate the comic for what it is: fucking amazing.

And now for the extensive credits.
Long Live The King
Writer: Robert Venditti Pencils: Joe Bennett

Inks: Marcio Loerzer & Bellardino Brabo
Colours: Ulises Arreola
Flashback art: Cary Nord, Doug Braithwaite, Diego Bernard, Rafa Sandoval, Robert Gil, Brian Reber, Ulises Arreola & David Baron
Torment sequence: Joe Bennett, Tom Palmer, Robert De Le Torre & Dean White
Letterer: Dave Sharpe

The Two Deaths Of Gaius Maelus
Writer: Fred Van Lente Artist: Clayton Henry

Colourist: Brian Reber Letterer: Dave Sharpe

His Greatest Failure
Writer: Jody Houser Artist: Javier Pulido

Colourist: Muntsa Vicente Letterer: Dave Sharpe

The Future
Writer: Matt Kindt Artist: Tomas Giorello

Colourist: Diego Rodriguez Letterer: Dave Sharpe

Story: 10 Art: 9 Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy

 

Valiant provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review, but by the time you read this I’ll have also picked up my own copy.

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