The action starts as soon as the comic is opened, and it never lets up until the final page in Ales Kot and Adam Gorham’s “Dead Drop” #1. X-O Manowar chases a young terrorist — or so his bosses tell him — through and over the streets of New York City in an attempt to retrieve a stolen and very deadly alien virus. In fact, that’s pretty much all that happens, save for a brief flashback to the nature of the virus, which points to a connection with Aric; it’s also all that needs to happen, as Kot’s story is so thrilling and fast-paced that any additional story elements would only be disruptive.
The entire issue is an extended chase scene, but to say it’s only a chase scene does Kot’s story a disservice. Such a statement is akin to saying Keanu Reeves’ “Speed” film was only about a bus driving really fast, when that very singular aspect was in fact what made it so thrilling. Like that movie, events unfold at a seemingly real-time pace, at least as best as a sequential art format can convey it. Gorham interprets it quite well; his style is well suited to action that’s all about speed versus strength. There’s a Gene Colan-esque fluidity to Gorham’s layouts, which convey motion that’s well suited for pursuit as well as fisticuffs, the latter of which are kept to a minimum here. It’s not about the kill; instead, it’s about the thrill of the chase, and Gorham delivers that. Colorist Michael Spicer adds some depth as well, embellishing Gorham’s art with a kind of textured and mostly subdued palette that results in a gritty, urban kind of look that suits the story’s environment.
This miniseries, billed as four connected standalone stories, promises to feature other characters from Valiant Entertainment in future issues, but the first installment works just fine as an X-O Manowar solo story. The unabashed full-issue action sequence staves off the pretense of any kind of character-driven story, so it’s a better fit here than in the ongoing “X-O Manowar” series. Even so, the heroism of Aric’s character — reflecting the growth his character has seen in his own title — stands out here, as witnessed by his carefully considered interactions with the police as well as his unhesitating willingness to protect innocent bystanders during his pursuit. Like Valiant’s other titles that don’t focus on one particular character, this issue proves that their heroes have enough depth to support multiple appearances.
“Dead Drop” #1 is a refreshing rollercoaster of an introduction, rather than the usual exposition-filled buildup.