Readers of last week’s “4001 A.D.” #1 saw the beginning of Valiant Entertainment’s latest event as well as the launch of a long dormant battle suit into space, one that appears to be based on the millennia-old X-O Manowar armor. Regular “X-O Manowar” writer Robert Venditti and artist Clayton Henry provide the origin for this rediscovered weapon in “4001 A.D.: X-O Manowar” #1, a far-reaching and largely event-driven tie-in. The lack of characterization does no harm to Venditti’s story, though; spanning nearly nineteen hundred years, he makes effective use of the limited space allotted and scripts an enjoyable and relevant prequel.
Venditti starts off with an efficiently concise origin of another kind; namely, how the actions of Father — the artificial sentience that controls New Japan — ushers in a cataclysm that changes the political state of the rest of the world. It’s a game-changing event that’s economically and powerfully captured by Henry within the span of four panels across the first two pages, laid out majestically and delivering the big-budget feel Venditti’s story requires. Venditti and Henry both note and observe the symbolism behind this now-literal land of the rising sun; Venditti with a brilliant quote-worthy line of narration, and Henry with the single panel that follows, which is gorgeously colored by Brian Reber and Andrew Dalhouse.
A lead character is necessary only to facilitate the story; after all, someone needs to pilot the battle suit. Venditti knows that, unlike his regular series, this standalone isn’t about the armor’s wearer; it’s all about the armor itself, how it came to be and how it got to be where it ultimately ended up. Venditti therefore spends a minimal amount of time establishing a lead and instead functionally makes him a supporting character within the larger scope of the story. He deftly avoids pasting stereotypes atop his shallow cast member, but makes no apologies for the lack of any kind of character-driven element in the story (nor does he need to).
Instead, he and Henry deliver great story structure and pacing and eke out a tale of mankind’s first — and perhaps only — assault on a world-ravaging artificial intelligence. Henry gets plenty of opportunities to deliver clean and stunning visuals, carrying the big-budget vibe throughout the issue. Venditti’s script ensures that the story, as well as its attractive artwork, has a purpose beyond just looking great. “4001 A.D.: X-O Manowar” #1 fulfills its intent and doesn’t try to be anything more than what it’s intended to be and works just fine because of it.