Armor Hunters #2

Robert Venditti, Doug Braithwaite, Laura Martin and Dave Sharpe bust out the chromium foil cover treatment once again for "Armor Hunters" #2, the second issue in the core series for Valiant's summer event. While the Armor Hunters have been en route towards Earth through much of this year in the pages of "X-O Manowar," they made planetfall in the first issue of the series and immediately made their presence known.

Venditti opens "Armor Hunters" #2 up with an assessment of the mayhem and destruction the Armor Hunters are capable of creating. Mexico City has been leveled and the Hunters are on the horn, making demands. Emphasizing the humanity still present under his suit, Aric has to remember his place and calm himself down before he can focus on what needs to be done. Venditti mirrors Aric's human outburst through the actions of Colonel Jaime Capshaw (or "Lady Colonel" as Aric refers to her) as she fights through her angry, frustration and fear, taking it all out on a computer monitor before composing herself and continuing with her duties. The writer keeps the focus tight in this issue to Aric and the Armor Hunters, but also brings in Bloodshot as well as Livewire from the "Unity" series in a maneuver that opens up other series and characters for interaction in this event, making it a potential crossover without handcuffing any other series unnecessarily.

Keenly detailed and physically substantial, Braithwaite's figures are sometimes stiff, but for the most part they work through their settings thanks to his strong knack for storytelling. His characters don't have the widest range of facial expressions or gestural movements, but "Armor Hunters" #2 is a downbeat issue with the most populated city in North America being devastated and the Hunters unleashing hounds in eight locations where Aric is known to have used the armor, including his people's refuge in Nebraska. Braithwaite is given a range of topics to draw and settings to draw them in and performs very well. While his pencils are still apparent through Laura Martin's colors, they don't muddy up the hues at all. Martin's work is bold when it needs to be, such as in the situation room in the Military Extraterrestrial Reconnaissance Outpost, but doesn't ever overwhelm. Sharpe rounds out the visuals with descriptive word balloons, from Malgam's agonized screams to GIN-GR's mechanized reporting. The three creators truly work well together, with only one panel really coming across out of place, that of the doctor's floating head as he describes the effects of the armor on Malgam's body.

That one panel comes and goes quickly as "Armor Hunters" #2 ratchets up the action more than a bit, apparently ready to spread into other titles very soon. Venditti and his co-creators are pacing this story along nicely, giving the Valiant universe a chance to react to the attack organically. X-O Manowar's reaction is the most visceral as he, literally, has the most flesh in this fight. All the same, Venditti manages to keep this from being an ancillary X-O book and truly makes it a central hub for a worldwide crisis, giving readers a plethora of characters to latch onto. If you haven't sampled the Valiant universe yet, you could do worse than jumping in right here, which is amazingly feasible, despite being the second chapter of the "Armor Hunters" story.

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