Rating: 3.5/5 – An Anniversary Spectacular with a little bit of everything to please new and old fans alike.
by ComicSpectrum reviewer Adam Alamo.
Billed as an “Anniversary Spectacular,” X-O Manowar #25 is a 48-page book that marks 25 issues of Valiant’s flagship character. It contains a little bit of everything to celebrate the occasion, including six stories from an array of writers and artists. Unfortunately, as I’ve found with most plus-sized anniversary issues, there may be a lot of goodies, but there’s not a lot of moving the story forward. Consequently, the issue felt like a bit of a letdown to me. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy most of the material, but I expected something more from a company that I believe produces some of the best books on the market.
Joined by an all star cast of artists that includes J.G. Jones, Bryan Hitch, and Diego Bernard, series writer Robert Venditti offers three stories in this anniversary issue. Starting off the issue, there is a single, one page story that recounts the origin of X-O Manowar (think an illustrated version of the recap typically found on the inside cover of the book). It was a concise, straightforward telling of the events that led us to present day. Following that is a poignant story about Aric and his relationship to his uncle. It’s a nice character piece that when combined with the many flashback stories throughout the 25 issue run, continues to paint a multidimensional picture of Aric. Venditti’s third story is essentially an Armor Hunters prelude, which continues the march to war that promises to have a significant impact on the Valiant Universe. While this is easily the most exciting part of this issue, it does not feature X-O Manowar. Considering it comprises the biggest part of X-O Manowar’s anniversary issue, it should. The Armor Hunters story could have easily been its own separate issue, leaving room for a lengthy and fulfilling story featuring Aric.
The remaining stories are written by former Shadowman scribe Justin Jordan, Owly creator/artist Andy Runton, and artist Tom Fowler. Jordan’s story was a one page humorous self-reflection on the crazy lives of X-O Manowar and Shadowman. As they commiserate over some cocktails, look carefully and you’ll see that the drink list in the background pays homage to the original Valiant Universe. It was a genius nod to us old school Valiant fans. The Owly/X-O Manowar crossover story by Fowler was also meant to be humorous, though it wasn’t my cup of tea. Finally, the one page story by Fowler provides some insight into why Aric fights.
The rest of the issue features various bonus material. There are some beautiful pin-ups by Barry Kitson and Cary Nord. The art in this issue is one of its best features and I am happy to see that some of the most talented artists in the business are spreading their love to Valiant titles. There is an X-O Manowar database that reminds me of the X-O Manowar database released during the original run of X-O Manowar. It’s doesn’t delve too deep and serves as more of a walk down memory lane. Venditti provides an excerpt of his original series pitch, two years from the day that Valiant re-launched it’s comic line with X-O Manowar. And finally, there is a cover gallery of not only the current 25 issue run of X-O Manowar, but every issue from the original run through the Acclaim run. This was another nod to old school Valiant fans that I thought was neat.
Overall, the “Anniversary Spectacular” promised for X-O Manowar #25 is a hodgepodge of stories and bonus material that examines the various facets of X-O Manowar. There is a little bit of everything to please fans, whether it be an Armor Hunters lead-in, beautiful artwork, a set of humorous stories, or some bonus reading material that gives insight into the story creation. The re-launch of Valiant comics in 2012 with X-O Manowar is what reignited my passion of comics. As an old school Valiant fan, I remember the quality storytelling that Valiant brought to the table. This new incarnation continues that tradition. Though I enjoyed most of what was presented in this issue, I wish that it had more of the substance I have grown accustomed to and less of the fluff.
Reviewed by: Adam Alamo
https://comicspectrum.com/ Covering the full spectrum of comics culture