Valiant Entertainment’s “Armor Hunters” #1 by Robert Venditti and Doug Braithwaite officially begins after a couple of prelude stories told in recent issues of “X-O Manowar,” and Venditti ensures that the start of this event makes sense to new and existing readers alike, even without the usual recap page that leads off every comic by the publisher. Knowing perhaps that beginning the first issue of a mini-series with a list of things readers need to know might be a little off-putting, Venditti instead lets his script do the talking, and he skillfully navigates between advancing the plot and bringing readers up to speed, and deftly enlightens newer readers without boring any current ones.
It’s exactly the kind of storytelling that an event like this needs. As the issue begins, an unseen enemy forces its way into a secret and well-fortified Russian military installation, but when the group is revealed they’re shown to be one that’s already known to “X-O Manowar” readers but all is explained in short order to those who are not. Venditti then introduces X-O Manowar armor wear Aric of Dacia, telling anyone who hasn’t already figured it out just exactly what armor these armor hunters are after. This introduction also establishes the ultimately kind-hearted nature of this centuries-old warrior who is now the king and protector of his remaining people, and also shows the peaceful but tense arrangement between him and the U.S. Government.
With that, everyone is now literally on the same page, and Venditti forges ahead, as M.E.R.O. (Military Extraterrestrial Reconnaissance Outpost) do a little summarizing of their own, informing Aric that the threat of the alien armor hunters has reached the planet. A fellow but mutated armor wear from “X-O Manowar” plays an important role before the armor hunters make their next surprising move that drastically escalates the threat level, which at this point has all readers fully involved, making for an incredibly enjoyable issue that’s over way too quickly. Those who purchase the digital edition, though, will get a pair of six-page bonuses from the upcoming “Armor Hunters: Bloodshot” #1 and “Armor Hunters: Harbinger” #1.
Braithwaite’s layouts are perfectly synced with Venditti’s script, delivering a nice-looking story that moves along at a quick pace, making sure that his art is as easy to follow as the story and punctuating it along the way with several panels that capture the true danger that these aliens have brought to Earth; among them, the immense robotic spacecraft that hovers in orbit around the planet. The work of colorist Laura Martin is as impressive as ever, where she captures the quiet, serene nature of Aric’s new home in Nebraska in strong contrast to the darker, sterile, technological interior of the M.E.R.O. installation. Jorge Molina’s wraparound cover is eye-catching as well, although the battle shown is really more of a presumed precursor to events yet to be told.
“Armor Hunters” #1 continues a trend that Valiant has been faithfully following since its beginning, by providing exciting and well-drawn stories that are easy for everyone to get into, without being weighed down with any past history. It’s an event story for readers who think they hate event stories.