"X-O Manowar" #5 is a comic that hits a lot of varied beats. Aric the Visigoth warrior has escaped galactic captivity and suddenly finds himself in present day Earth. This is an affront to his system and he attempts to come to grips with what this means for him. He understands his major reason for escape -- to see his wife once more -- is gone and thus, he needs new motivation, which comes in the form of a sect of humans with ulterior motives hunting him down. Aric goes from a crestfallen man to a warrior fighting to live.
Robert Venditti crafts a brilliant and brutally enormous action sequence which Lee Garbett does justice in every way. Considering Aric is the book's lead, it could be easy to see the man in the technical battlesuit as some kind of superhero. However, there has been no assertion that Aric is a vessel for the greater good and it is unreasonable to think a barbarian out of time would abide by some sort of battle code. He is used to slicing people open with blades, so it should come as no surprise that he jams grenades back into people's chests and annihilates the heads of those who would stab at him.
Amidst the confronting violence, we get to know and understand Aric a little better. In the opening scene, he converses with a young Italian girl and he is gentle and kind in manner and action. There is also a flashback with Aric with his wife that shows where he comes from emotionally and where being over a millennia late leaves him. Aric isn't on stable ground. Everything he thought was taken away from him and he's worked so hard to return to is gone. It's understandable why he is irate and so quick to violence.
The appearance of Ninjak in this issue is very well done. A ninja mercenary, Ninjak is played straight and extremely deadly. He is drawn into the mix attempting to bring down Aric and steal the suit. Venditti writes him as a crafty character -- deadly with a sword but strategizes before taking action. This is a great direction to take as it builds a character instead of just a sweet looking action delivery model.
Lee Garbett's action sequences are dynamically paced and smoothly delivered. Panels rotate around the action and the focus is modified so the result is a fight that constantly gives you another pulse beat. He also borders somewhere on the line of being nasty in his violence but always knows when to pull back. Moose Baumann does a great job bringing the environments to life in an almost HD manner. The rainforest backdrop with waterfall and lush blue sky has a dreamlike quality to it that immerses the characters in a real setting.
"X-O Manowar" #5 is an action conspiracy comic with a character heart beating at its center. The journey of Aric is tinged with poignancy as much as it is soaked in the blood of alien and human foes. This issue is filled with action on a massive and personal scale. It is a relief to see the quality of this book continue as it emerges from the opening arc and forges on into a larger tale.