“X-O Manowar” #25 sports an “Anniversary Spectacular!” banner across the cover and does not disappoint, bringing readers a complete package anchored by stories from Robert Venditti, drawn by J. G. Jones, Bryan Hitch and Diego Bernard. Borrowing a little from the anniversary spectaculars from yesteryear as well as the cover gallery idea most frequently used by Marvel, Valiant Entertainment rounds this comic book out with a pair of pin-ups, a trio of one-page updates, three pages of database files and three-page “Owly” story.
The structure of “X-O Manowar” #25 is more that of an anthology, capped by the original series pitch, than a standard comic book. Venditti juxtaposes a story of Aric visiting the burial site of his uncle while memorializing his departed relative in his mind with an update on the journey of the Armor Hunters. In a standard comic, the flow might wind between the two tales, but here Venditti puts the history lesson in front and independent of the Armor Hunters. The result is a more focused tale of the Hunters and a more solid glimpse into their cause and motivation. Venditti does a very good job selling readers on this quintet of inevitable foes, making the villains readers are going to love to hate.
The art in “X-O Manowar” #25 is remarkable and enjoyable. From the pinups by original series artist Cary Nord and Barry Kitson to the one-page summary by J.G. Jones, the shorter features of this issue put a visual bow on an impressive collection. Hitch is detailed and polished as usual, with his inks weighing in heavier than many of the other portions of this issue, “The Fate of Kings” carries more somber emotion, leading into the funeral for a fallen comrade that opens the Armor Hunters tale. Diego Bernard’s art in this chapter, titled “Burial,” is very character focused. Their tale is set on a barren world, with only a handful of panels elsewhere, which works to keep the story character-focused and distraction free. Primary, Helix, Mopp, GIN-GR, Quartz and Lilt are all visually impressive figures that will be fun to continue reading about as their quest to annihilate Vine armor.
While slightly more verbose than a Prince Valiant strip, the J. G. Jones’ one-pager is a nice way to kick off a tribute to X-O Manowar while the cover gallery caps off what has led to this point. This is how anniversary issues should be done: recognize the history, celebrate that veteran readership and experienced creators, bring newer readers up to speed and seed the future. “X-O Manowar” #25 executes this brilliantly, giving readers a magnificently robust comic book filled with twenty-seven pages of new story in addition to the pin-ups, data file information and pitch documentation. As the first of the Valiant Entertainment books to cross the quarter-century landmark, “X-O Manowar” #25 sets the bar high for the rest of the line.