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Review: X-O Manowar #18

XO2017_018_COVER-A_LAROSAjpgSentenced to die for crimes against the empire, Aric of Dacia and his new comrade, Sabbas, have escaped the gladiatorial arena… only to find themselves in far more dire straits! Centuries before he would become X-O Manowar, can a brasher, younger Aric – sworn to combat the Romans at any cost – outwit and outmaneuver the machinations of the planet’s most powerful civilization… even as death threatens him and the fate of the entire Visigoth nation?

A word of advice if you pick both Valiant comics up this week; read Harbinger Wars II #4 (or at least a synopsis of it if you’re curious) before reading this book because the final page of X-O Manowar #18 will spoil the events of the previously mentioned comic in an oddly subtle and almost callous manner as this issue winds o a close. With Matt Kindt handling scripting duties for both Valiant comics this week, the obvious question will be which is better – the easy answer is this one.

X-O Manowar #18 wraps up the Barbarians arc in which we see a young, pre-armour Aric of Dacia heading into Rome to rescue his best friend’s brother. The reason this story is presented to us is partly to avoid conflict with HBII as Aric plays a role in that series (and by telling a story from the past you avoid the need to explain continuity away), partly to develop the relationship between Aric and his armour, and partly to introduce more characters from Aric’s past. But these things mean very little if the comic itself isn’t worth reading, and thankfully this one is.

Although at first this is a largely silent issue, Kindt’s script allows Trevor Hairsine  to flex his storytelling muscles through the opening sequence as he delivers a wonderfully choreographed water battle set within the Colliseum as Aric and the newly introduced Sabbas face off against two ships. The sequence serves to remind you that even without his legenday armour, Aric of Dacia is still a formidable warrior – and remember this is before he reaches maturity, so his kills would have developed between this moment and the time he is captured by the Vine back in X-O Manowar #1 (the 2012 series).

We’re brought back into the present by the over hanging thread of Shanhara replaying Aric’s memories to guide him in his future decision making, and their conversation leads to a remarkably deep question from the man as Shanhara makes an observation or threes about the world and an equally poignant answer from the armour. It’s in this moment that we understand just how deep their symbiotic relationship goes. It’s this exchange that makes the entire Barbarians arc suddenly relevant and ties the past to the present (and no, I won’t tell you what it is) in a moment that i more powerful than it has any right to be. With X-O Manowar #18 Kindt has delivered a sleeper hit in the running for my issue of the year based solely on the conclusion of the comic.

Story: Matt Kindt Pencils: Trevor Hairsine
Inks: Brian Theis Colours: Diego Rodriguez Letters: Dave Sharpe
Story: 8.9 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.0 Recommendation: Buy

Valiant provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

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