“X-O Manowar” #24 serves as a prelude to the upcoming “Armor Hunters” storyline, but more importantly, writer Robert Venditti and artist Diego Bernard deliver a fantastic introduction to Aric of Dacia. The comic opens with Aric in space, grappling with a behemoth cloaked in shreds of exoskeleton similar to the X-O Manowar armor.
The behemoth later identifies himself as Malgam, but doesn’t relent or agree to peaceably cooperate. That leads to a magnificent line from Aric, “You refused to offer your hand in peace. Now you have lost it,” that twists and transforms into the apex of the struggle and a revelation of new expression through the armor. Venditti keeps the story moving, but packs enough into the twenty-two pages of “X-O Manowar” #24 to make it feel like an extra-sized adventure. In addition to the battle, Venditti provides a fly-by of the Military Extraterrestrial Reconnaissance Outpost — M.E.R.O. — in Utah and a night between Aric and his ladylove, Saana, as they marvel at the concept of running water.
Alison Rodriguez’s scratchy inks add contour and texture to the shapes drawn by Diego Bernhard, which helps the armors of Aric and Malgam remain distinct throughout their battle. The visual is not unlike a Green Lantern/Green Lantern throwdown, except Brian Reber’s brighter blues and shining golds of the Manowar armor pop from the backgrounds without casting any hues to homogenize the panels. Bernard’s characters work with the space and frequently push the boundaries of their panels, thanks to the artist’s efforts to use the whole space of the page. Aric’s realization of the armor’s capabilities is telling and adds more to the story than a page full of words would provide. Bernard draws in plenty of detail, but also benefits from the fact that a large amount of this issue occurs in space, without settlement or technology to clutter the landscape. When the action returns to Earth, Bernard’s art proves just as effective and retains a high level of detail.
After a three-page introduction to them in “X-O Manowar” #24, this issue also includes a five-page preview of “Armor Hunters” #1, giving readers plenty to look forward to. When readers meet the hunters in the story proper, Venditti and Bernard sell them as total cutthroats. They also weave in an undeniable connection to X-O Manowar, setting up a battle for the ages. From start to finish, the creative team on “X-O Manowar” #24 really pack in the action and excitement. Given everything that has happened to and around Aric of Darcia, readers of this series might be hard to impress, but this issue offers plenty to impress and serves as a splendid introduction to the characters, the armor and the Valiant Universe.