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Preview: X-O Manowar #25

X-O MANOWAR #25

Written by MATT KINDT
Art by TOMÁS GIORELLO
Colors by DIEGO RODRIGUEZ
Letters by DAVE SHARPE
Cover A by KENNETH ROCAFORT
Cover B by LEO COLAPIETRO
Cover C by MICHAEL MANOMIVBUL
Interlocking Variant by FRANCIS PORTELA
Pre-order Variant Cover by DIEGO YAPUR
On sale March 20, 2019

Bounty hunted!

Long ago, Aric of Dacia left the life he knew on Earth behind to start afresh in a distant galaxy… Now the mistakes of his past have come home to roost, causing untold devastation on the planet Aric first called home! Clad in the X-O Manowar armor he once renounced, the former Emperor of Gorin has a choice to make: Does he take on this band of intergalactic warriors alone, or does he trust the mysterious woman warrior in black who’s come to his aid?

X-O MANOWAR #25

Preview: Incursion #2 (of 4)

INCURSION #2 (of 4)

Story by ALEX PAKNADEL & ANDY DIGGLE
Script by ALEX PAKNADEL
Art by DOUG BRAITHWAITE
Colors by DIEGO RODRIGUEZ
Letters by MARSHALL DILLON
Cover A by DOUG BRAITHWAITE
Cover B by RYAN BODENHEIM
B/W Cover C by DOUG BRAITHWAITE
Pre-order Variant Cover by TONCI ZINJIC
On sale March 20, 2019 

There is only one world left to conquer…

Entire planets have suffered and died at the cold, close-fisted hands of the alien Imperatrix Virago—and now her gruesome sights are set on our world. As Earth’s chosen protector, the Geomancer named Tama fights for her life, while the Eternal Warrior goes on the ultimate mission through the perilous realm of the Deadside to find the secret to saving her…and the entire planet in the process.

INCURSION #2 (of 4)

Advance Review: Incursion #2

Incursion #2

There is only one world left to conquer…

Entire planets have suffered and died at the cold, close-fisted hands of the alien Imperatrix Virago – and now her gruesome sights are set on our world. As Earth’s chosen protector, the Geomancer named Tama fights for her life, while the Eternal Warrior goes on the ultimate mission through the perilous realm of the Deadside to find the secret to saving her…and the entire planet in the process.

This is an exciting time for Valiant. The long anticipated The Life and Death of Toyo Harada is due to hit shelves any day now, Livewire is beginning to pick up steam, and The Forgotten Queen is looking to be a sleeper hit. But it’s Incursion that has this reviewer most excited; chiefly because it features Gilad Anni-Padda, the Eternal Warrior (though I can’t deny LADOTH isn’t high on my list, either).

Conveniently enough, Incursion is what we’re talking about today, and, spoiler alert, it’s pretty freaking great.

Andy Diggle and Alex Paknadel  wasted no time in establishing the threat and setting the tone for the story in the first issue, and they keep the plot rolling here at a steady pace. Picking up almost immediately after the conclusion of the first issue, we follow Gilad as he seeks aid for Tama’s condition. The ensuing scenes show a subtly touchy (and touching) Gilad as he fusses over the young Geomancer, with his advanced years and experience showing through in an interesting, yet almost throwaway line about the sound of dry leaves over flagstones. Which brings me to an aspect of the comic that could easily be over looked; the dialogue between Gilad and Doctor Mirage. It’s incredibly well written, with each character clearly owning their own voice, culminating in an almost terrifying question for the Valiant universe (though the answer, one can argue, can be gleaned from The Valiant).

The reason the dialogue can be over looked so easily is because Doug Braithwaite and Diego Rodriguez are working with an almost symbiotic relationship – there are fine details from Braithwaite that Rodriguez highlights that seem almost too subtle to be intentional. The furrow in Gilad’s brow when he’s leaning over Tama, the concern in Doctor Mirage’s eyes… and the gradual scrapes and tears to Gilad’s clothing. Subtle details that add more to the story than you’d expect.

Up until this point, I’ve only been talking about the first nine pages of the comic; there’s a lot of comic here to dissect, a lot of comic to absorb – you certainly get a good bang for your buck here. The rest of the comic remains at a consistently high quality level, although there are moments of pure brilliance sprinkled throughout – whether it is from the art, the dialogue or the plot as a whole, this comic offers something very special.

If you wondered, you don’t need to be a Valiant fan to enjoy this story (of course, it helps). You can read this easily as a standalone story because the creative team are able to easily impart the depth of Gilad and Tama’s relationship and the weight it bears. The stakes in the comic are world-endingly high, but because the central pillar of the story is the relationship between Geomancer and the Eternal Warrior, the one against many nature of the story doesn’t seem out of place or conceited. It feels just right.

Incursion #2 is, once again a great comic. The series is on pace to end up as one of my very favorite Valiant stories – and certainly one of Valiant’s very best.

Story: Andy Diggle and Alex Paknadel
 Pencils: Doug Braithwaite 
Colours: Diego Rodriguez
Letters: Marshal Dillon 
Story: 9.3 Art: 9.5 Overall: 9.4 Recommendation: Buy

Valiant provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Valiant Launches a New Bloodshot Series with Tim Seeley and Brett Booth Ahead of the Vin Diesel Movie

Before Vin Diesel breaks the box office as Bloodshot in Sony Pictures’ upcoming feature film, Valiant Entertainment is launching an explosive new Bloodshot ongoing series from an all-star creative team, debuting in September!

Bloodshot, the unstoppable supersoldier trapped in a never-ending war, has arrived! Written by the electrifying Tim Seeley and featuring artwork by industry icon Brett Booth, this tremendous team is crafting a Bloodshot adventure full of badass action, surprising stories…and then some more badass action! Declan Shalvey will illustrate covers for the series.

Once, he was the perfect living weapon, created to follow orders. Now, Bloodshot works alone, using his lethal skills to protect those who cannot protect themselves. But a mysterious and powerful organization is watching, and they’re not about to let something as dangerous as Bloodshot remain free…

Valiant is set to distribute free copies of a brand-new Bloodshot short story by Seeley with artwork by Tomás Giorello and Diego Rodriguez on Free Comic Book Day (May 4, 2019) through participating retailers. The story leads into the new series.

Artwork from BLOODSHOT (2019) #1 by Brett Booth.
Inking by Adelso Corona, coloring by Andrew Dalhouse.
Artwork by BLOODSHOT (2019) #1 by Brett Booth.
Inking by Adelso Corona, coloring by Andrew Dalhouse.

Review: X-O Manowar #24

X-O Manowar #24

“Hero” – Part Two!

The intergalactic bounty hunters once bested by Aric of Dacia have followed him to Earth to reclaim their victory – by any means necessary! But X-O Manowar doesn’t stand alone: From out of nowhere, another armor-clad challenger has jumped into the fray… Who is this mysterious warrior, and what business does she have with Aric?

Holy shit but this is a great looking book. I’ve been trying to think of a way to impart just how amazing it looks while retaining some semblance of intelligence… but let’s face it; I’ve spent too much time trying to word that properly when I could just be writing.

Tomas Giorello is an utterly phenomenal artist, and he shows why with this issue. Each and every page is packed with more detail, emotion and life than some comics have in their entirety. I actually had to read the comic twice because I caught myself just drinking in the art (and although I understood most of the story based on the art alone, reading the narration boxes added another layer to an already visually impressive book). The usage of blank space and compressed panels early in the comic give you a more claustrophobic feel than any text could ever convey.

X-O Manowar #24 is a comic where the art is clearly the star of the show; Giorello and colourist Diego Rodriguez have produced a simply spectacular visual journey that exemplifies the struggle and determination of the titular character as, vastly out gunned, he demonstrates his Visigoth stubborn refusal to accept defeat.

Don’t get me wrong, while the art is easily worth buying the comic for alone, Matt Kindt‘s story isn’t exactly terrible. Far from it, in fact, and paired with almost any other artistic team the plot would easily be a highlight. Beautiful in its minimalism, the story is essentially a long fight scene with a set of narrative captions that need to be read twice (ideally once you’ve finished the comic, go back for a second read). On paper it sounds disappointingly simple, but in actual fact the emotional weight of the art is balanced with a deceptively deep narration text that has a dual meaning that’s revealed once you get to the final page (hence the double read).

X-O Manowar #24 is another wonderful example of Valiant at their very best. Which, given the talented creative team, should come as a surprise to absolutely nobody.

Story: Matt Kindt Art: Tomas Giorello
Colourist: Diego Rodriguez Letterer: Dave Sharpe
Story: 8.9 Art: 10 Overall: 9.3 Recommendation: Buy

Valiant provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review. I purchased the comic anyway.

Review: Incursion #1

Limited event series! A new villain approaches!

Incursion #1

Beyond the margins of human reason lies a realm known as the Deadside, where the souls of the dearly departed linger – and where demons wait for us in the dark. For countless ages, Earth’s chosen protectors have guarded the veil between both worlds – but there are other doors to the Deadside, through which gruesome terrors from galaxies untold can trespass… With the planet’s freedom at stake, can the reigning Geomancer and her steadfast Eternal Warrior stand together against an invasion unlike any they’ve ever witnessed?

The book that finally sold me on Valiant‘s comics was the 2016 Book of Death four issue mini series that focused primarily on the Eternal Warrior and the Geomancer as the former sought to protect the latter from a mystical threat. The story still holds up today. Needless to say, when I saw the blurb and art for Incursion, I was excited to see the Eternal Warrior and the Geomancer facing another threat – although this time slightly more alien in nature.

Andy Diggle, fresh of his run on Shadowman, takes the scripting helm here with Alex Paknadel  and wastes no time in establishing the threat and setting the tone for the following three issues. We don’t know a lot about the antagonist, yet, but what we do know is just enough to tantalize. The preview text (the first paragraph above) hints at an epic confrontation between the Geomancer, a person with the ability to commune with and utilize the powers of the Earth, and the Eternal Warrior, the Earth’s immortal champion, and a newly introduced antagonist who seems to hunger for life force in a way not too dissimilar to Marvel’s Galactus. However, by the time you’ll make the comparison, you’ll notice a very specific, and perhaps more horrifying, difference; where Galactus takes moments to devour a planet, Virago seems to take years (this is only a minor spoiler for the first few pages, which have been previously revealed in the back of other Valiant books or preview pages).

The writing duo have set up the following story wonderfully with a well paced opening that doesn’t fall into the familiar trap of too much exposition and not enough story progression. Instead we have a comic that’s about as complete a comic as any first issue can be; that is to it checks every box it needs to.

Speaking of checking the boxes, the comic is very nice to look at.  Doug Braithwaite‘s art seems to have very minimal inking, and based on the comic’s credits at the beginning, that’s because he penciled the book and Jose Villarrubia and Diego Rodriguez were on colour art duties. There’s no specific mention of an inker, nor is Braithwaite credited with anything other than penciling the book. I mention this because there’s a very soft edge to the art that works really well. With the definition feeling far more… I don’t want to say classical/high art style, but that’s exactly what it feels like.

I’m normally hesitant when it comes to multiple writers on the same project as in my experience aside from Eliot Rahal and Donny Cates on The Paybacks, the results are usually average at best. At best. With Incursion #1, however, Diggle and Paknadel have delivered a comic that’s every bit as good as I hoped it would be, if not more so. For some context, the series I’ve read featuring the Eternal Warrior as a prominent character (Book of Death and Wrath of the Eternal Warrior) are some of my absolute favourite so my expectations are naturally higher for any comic with the character as a focal point. And yet, I loved this issue, and am happy to say that Incursion #1 is a great comic.

Story: Andy Diggle and Alex Paknadel
 Pencils: Doug Braithwaite 
Colours: Jose Villarrubia and Diego Rodriguez 
Letters: Marshal Dillon 
Story: 9.3 Art: 9.3 Overall: 9.3 Recommendation: Buy

Valiant provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Advance Review: Incursion #1

Limited event series! A new villain approaches!

Incursion #1

Beyond the margins of human reason lies a realm known as the Deadside, where the souls of the dearly departed linger – and where demons wait for us in the dark. For countless ages, Earth’s chosen protectors have guarded the veil between both worlds – but there are other doors to the Deadside, through which gruesome terrors from galaxies untold can trespass… With the planet’s freedom at stake, can the reigning Geomancer and her steadfast Eternal Warrior stand together against an invasion unlike any they’ve ever witnessed?

The book that finally sold me on Valiant‘s comics was the 2016 Book of Death four issue mini series that focused primarily on the Eternal Warrior and the Geomancer as the former sought to protect the latter from a mystical threat. The story still holds up today. Needless to say, when I saw the blurb and art for Incursion, I was excited to see the Eternal Warrior and the Geomancer facing another threat – although this time slightly more alien in nature.

Andy Diggle, fresh of his run on Shadowman, takes the scripting helm here with Alex Paknadel  and wastes no time in establishing the threat and setting the tone for the following three issues. We don’t know a lot about the antagonist, yet, but what we do know is just enough to tantalize. The preview text (the first paragraph above) hints at an epic confrontation between the Geomancer, a person with the ability to commune with and utilize the powers of the Earth, and the Eternal Warrior, the Earth’s immortal champion, and a newly introduced antagonist who seems to hunger for life force in a way not too dissimilar to Marvel’s Galactus. However, by the time you’ll make the comparison, you’ll notice a very specific, and perhaps more horrifying, difference; where Galactus takes moments to devour a planet, Virago seems to take years (this is only a minor spoiler for the first few pages, which have been previously revealed in the back of other Valiant books or preview pages).

The writing duo have set up the following story wonderfully with a well paced opening that doesn’t fall into the familiar trap of too much exposition and not enough story progression. Instead we have a comic that’s about as complete a comic as any first issue can be; that is to it checks every box it needs to.

Speaking of checking the boxes, the comic is very nice to look at.  Doug Braithwaite‘s art seems to have very minimal inking, and based on the comic’s credits at the beginning, that’s because he penciled the book and Jose Villarrubia and Diego Rodriguez were on colour art duties. There’s no specific mention of an inker, nor is Braithwaite credited with anything other than penciling the book. I mention this because there’s a very soft edge to the art that works really well. With the definition feeling far more… I don’t want to say classical/high art style, but that’s exactly what it feels like.

I’m normally hesitant when it comes to multiple writers on the same project as in my experience aside from Eliot Rahal and Donny Cates on The Paybacks, the results are usually average at best. At best. With Incursion #1, however, Diggle and Paknadel have delivered a comic that’s every bit as good as I hoped it would be, if not more so. For some context, the series I’ve read featuring the Eternal Warrior as a prominent character (Book of Death and Wrath of the Eternal Warrior) are some of my absolute favourite so my expectations are naturally higher for any comic with the character as a focal point. And yet, I loved this issue, and am happy to say that Incursion #1 is a great comic.

Story: Andy Diggle and Alex Paknadel
 Pencils: Doug Braithwaite 
Colours: Jose Villarrubia and Diego Rodriguez 
Letters: Marshal Dillon 
Story: 9.3 Art: 9.3 Overall: 9.3 Recommendation: Buy

Valiant provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: X-O Manowar #23

X-O Manowar #23

Aric of Dacia may have left Planet Gorin behind, but its people still remember the ruin they felt in his wake…and so do the bounty hunters who sought to end his barbaric reign! Enraged by the blight on their perfect record, they’ve arrived on our world to finish the job they started – and this time, they don’t plan on taking X-O Manowar alive!

A question that often comes up in comic shops is whether you can start reading a series with the issue currently on the shelf, or if you need to start from the beginning. Valiant’s previews often claim that the start of a new arc is a good jumping on point (when coupled with the recap page and at times the reader’s willingness to accept things with only the barest of explanations) and they’re seldom wrong with that statement. As far as X-O Manowar #23 goes, this is a pretty good jumping on point should you choose to do so (though I feel obligated to tell you that the entire series is really good and worth the time and financial investment for your enjoyment).

Matt Kindt is able to establish the premise of this story remarkably quickly, and despite the fairly simple plot presented here, his writing is once again of the high quality one has come to associate with the writer. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not knocking the simple plot (it won’t take you long to realize this is a revenge story), because for me it was actually a selling point. Kindt’s ability to develop Aric’s character in a handful of panels demonstrates his understanding of the character, and gives us a discussion about human waste that, let’s be honest, most of us have wondered about.

Once again, Tomas Giorello is freaking amazing. His art transcends traditional comics and will have you rereading this comic just to look at the pictures (or maybe you’ll take your time reading the book because your eyes demand the time to drink in the visual spectacle before you.). Whether it’s the figures, the page layouts or the use of space, both figuratively and literally, this comic features some fantastic art. Genuinely, I can’t wait to see this in print.

The one nitpick I have, and it is minor, involves the arrival of certain characters on Earth. How they got where they did isn’t quite explained, and makes little sense to me, but is far from a story-breaking moment; I’ve a feeling it may be explained later in the arc, and if it isn’t there’s a chance I won’t remember it come the next issue. X-O Manowar has consistently been one of the better comic book series over the last couple of years, and this issue is a prime example of why.

Story: Matt Kindt Art: Tomas Giorello 
Colours: Diego Rodriguez Letters: Dave Sharpe 
Story: 9.2 Art: 10 Overall: 9.2 Recommendation: Buy

Valiant provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review.

Review: Bloodshot: Rising Spirit #2

Bloodshot Rising Spirit #2

Bloodshot’s definitive origin story races forward! 

Bloodshot’s handlers have a problem: Their valuable asset isn’t quite the blank slate they’d hoped for and keeps rejecting the false memories they attempt to implant into his mind. Can Project Rising Spirit recoup their losses and produce the perfect supersoldier at last – or is their new prototype at risk of being shelved permanently?

I’ll lay my cards right down on the table – I am not fond of the concept of Bloodshot: Rising Spirit. This series is an origin story for Bloodshot that isn’t really needed if you’ve read any of the previous Bloodshot series published in the last few years (Bloodshot, Bloodshot: Reborn, Bloodshot USA and Bloodshot Salvation) because you already know how the story will end.

I understand why Valiant feel the need to revisit the character’s origin with a movie scheduled to hit theaters sometime in 2020, just as I understand that I may not be the target audience for this story as I already have some familiarity with the character.

The story aims to delve deeper into Bloodshot’s past, his creation and his training, but unlike another character with a mysterious past, we’ve already seen glimpses of what led to Bloodshot’s creation. We hadn’t seen any of the build up to what happened to Logan during his time at Weapon X, so the Barry Windsor Smith story was exciting, fresh and gave readers a new level of understanding for the character. Conversely, after two issues, Bloodshot: Rising Spirit is none of those things.

Kevin Grevioux seems to lose himself in the false memory implants that the story is shoving on Bloodshot, which has the effect  of leaving the reader doubting just what is, and what is not, real. Although this could be, and quite likely is, an intentional choice to further immerse the reader in Bloodshot’s journey, it left me waiting for the end of the comic.

Artistically, the comic is solid. Which is something that I was somewhat pleasantly surprised about after realising the art was handled by three different artists (all of whom are very talented); one was a touch worried that there may have been too many cooks in the kitchen, but in this case there seems to be just the right amount to produce a really good meal.

There are better Bloodshot stories out there. If you’re looking for an idea of where the character was before he breaks free from his masters, start with the 2012 Bloodshot. If you want to read a fantastic character breakdown and exploration of what it means to be human, superhuman and the bonds of responsibility that comes with that then start at Bloodshot: Reborn. Jeff Lemire’s run through to the end of Bloodshot: Salvation is a modern classic, and is arguably some of the writer’s best work. But if you do want to check this series out, rest assured that it isn’t a bad comic; it’s just not as good as what came before. At this point there’s very little here for existing fans, whereas new readers will have a wealth of things to discover with the character – and if Bloodshot: Rising Spirit is their gateway to Bloodshot and Valiant in general, then that’s no bad thing.

Story: Kevin Grevioux
Art – Breakdowns: Ken Lashley Finishes: Ryan Winn and Oliver Borges
Colours: Diego Rodriguez Letters: Simon Bowland
Story: 6.8 Art: 8.4 Overall: 7.5 Recommendation: Read

Valiant provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

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