Fan-Pleasing “Emperor”, Part One Kicks Off In X-O Manowar #7

by Brendan M. Allen

The ultimate turning point! A war has been won, a victory has been decided…and, now, an entire alien world kneels before the throne of their new leader: the unstoppable X-O MANOWAR! He has traded his armor for a crown and a new age now begins…even as an extraterrestrial invader readies an interplanetary attack that could pull Aric of Dacia from the newfound safety of his imperial palace and back into the blood-sodden battlefields where his conquest began.

Comics superstar Clayton Crain (4001 A.D., RAI) joins New York Times best-selling writer Matt Kindt (RAPTURE, Mind MGMT, Dept H., Ether) to summit the next pinnacle of 2017’s best-selling independent superhero series – and unleash a blistering, new interstellar opus chronicling the most powerful moment yet in the history of Valiant’s unrelenting icon!

Sometimes it takes a few issues to commit to a reboot of a beloved series. That isn’t the case with Valiant Entertainment’s new spin on X-O Manowar. It’s been abundantly clear from the very first issue that Valiant is onto something special with Matt Kindt at the head of this ship.

In X-O Manowar #7, Kindt and co. kick off a new story arc, “Emperor,” part one. The Emperor of the Azure is at a tipping point in the story. He’s been using Aric of Dacia and an elite Azurian force to do his bidding, while also striking deals with the invading Monomen to eliminate The Burnt.

Now that the Monomen have fulfilled their end of the horse trade, the Emperor is counting on Aric’s expertise to eliminate them, rather than surrender his palace as the promised payment. When Aric and his team arrive to destroy the Monomen, instead of a single monolith craft, they find an entire fleet. If The Emperor’s lucky, they’ll destroy each other. Worst case, he’ll only have to deal with one pissed off army, right?

This reboot has been hitting since day one. It really feels like the creative team is trying to reconcile the original material to modern tastes, not rewrite the whole story. Aric of Dacia’s origin story has been tweaked just slightly, but not enough to really make a difference in the flavor of the franchise.

Matt Kindt is taking a slightly more cerebral approach than Shooter and Engleheart did back in ’91. I’m not sure who’s doing the narration in this issue, whether it’s Shanhara’s sentience, Aric’s internal monologue, or some unseen minstrel, but whoever is talking takes us into Aric’s headspace, exposing his motivations and fears.

I can’t wrap this piece up without talking about Clayton Crain’s art. Doug Braithwaite is no easy act to follow, but Crain nails it. The spreads are stunning. There’s an insane amount of detail in landscapes and battle scenes without overworking the material. Smoke, fire, and fog are used to eerie effect, obscuring just enough of the backgrounds to make the action pop in the foreground. This is a handsome book.

If you haven’t been following along, chapter 7 is a great place to jump in. There’s enough exposition that a brand new reader would be able to fill in the blanks, and even if you didn’t have everything completely figured out, Kindt provides background blurbs on each of the characters in the opening pages.

   

X-O Manowar #7 released the 27th of September 2017, published by Valiant. Written by Matt Kindt with art by Clayton Crain. Letters by Dave Sharpe, Cover A by Lewis Larosa (Diamond Code JUL172252), Cover B by Adam Pollina (Diamond Code JUL172253), Interlocking Variant by Juan Jose Ryp (Diamond Code JUL172254), X-O Manowar Icon Variant by Ben Templesmith (Diamond Code JUL172255).