Pros: There is plenty of action and heroic moments throughout this collection. The mythos of the Manowar armor is expanded.
Cons: Aric is made out to be very overpowered, making the fights much less interesting. The pacing in this volume is off.
Overall: This is a decent story that is unfortunately hampered by some rather big and glaring problems. Aric’s overpowered armor and the volume’s poor pacing makes it hard to become truly excited by much in this book. Hopefully, things will turn around in the next volume and the successes of Volume 2 can be repeated.
Despite an well written previous volume, this book fails to match the positives features in the previous book. Though it does have some good action, character development, and lore in it, it misses the mark on a good many things as well. It’s biggest flaw is using the Manowar armor as a crutch that solves all of Aric’s problems. However, poor pacing and a hurried story also effect things as well. Overall this story wrapped up everything from prior books in an underwhelming way, but also leaves things with a nice blank space to build something good from in the next volume.
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This volume is the first to substantially dig into the lore behind the Manowar armor. Readers get to learn about its history, its legend, and some more of its powers. It also subtly hints that there may be more to Aric getting the armor than previously believed. One of the Vine leaders claims Aric can use the armor simply because he is not Vine, something backed up by the fact that Aric’s friend was also able to wield the armor. The mystery of the armor promises to be a mystery for a while longer, but the slow reveal of clues and lore is proving to be an entertaining and interesting journey.
In addition to this, if you are a fan of large scale superhero fights then this book has a lot to offer. Aric is constantly facing off in a fight against some powerful or giant enemy. Laser blasts, explosions, plasma swords, and good old fashioned fisticuffs fly across the majority of the books pages. It gives the book a satisfactory degree of action and adventure to all who are looking for that from their comics.
However, with this influx of action, some of the drama and suspense is lost. While the previous volume involved a vulnerable Aric teaming up with others and developing a plan for success, this one involves an unstoppable Aric punching everything until it is fixed. He is so overpowered in this book that it dispels any sort of dramatic tension for the reader. This is mainly because the Manowar armor is the character’s ultimate deus ex machinea, it defeats any enemy in a fight and even returns to Aric when separated from him. This wouldn’t be as noticeable if the series didn’t default back to it so often; Aric is “almost defeated” at least three times only to be saved by the Armor at the last second. Hopefully the series can give him some real threats in the future and allow him to do more than punch his way out of problems as the series progresses.
Beyond this, the pacing of the book was also off and vastly different than what came before it. The previous volume and a half have been building up to a massive invasion of Earth by the Vine fleet; this invasion is destroyed in two issues, with half of those issues being focused more on Aric’s old friend than the actual invasion. Then, Aric decides to go to the actual homeworld of the Vine to take them on at the source. This is the home of a race that the entire series has set up as being one of the most formidable and powerful in all the galaxy, yet Aric dissembles it within four issues. With how well Venditti handled the previous few issues, all of this feels like an editorial mandate in order to quickly get Aric back to Earth, especially since the first plotline in the Unity Vol. 1: To Kill a King takes place on Earth and revolves around X-O Manowar.
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Much of the book features art very similar to the first two volumes. This style matches the cosmic and modern environments, making it fit with a lot of the content in this book. However, it still is pretty average art overall and, in most places, does not do anything really that special. Despite this though, there are some scenes where the art looks simply fantastic.
The best bit of art in this book occurs when the Vine discuss the origin of the Manowar armor. Here readers are treated to colorful and trippy images of the past encompassed by some gorgeous and mythic paneling. As stated in our review of volume 1, Cary Nord’s art looks best when depicting lush and beautiful landscapes and peoples. Here this talent is highlighted and presented at its best yet. The rest of the volume also features this, particularly on pages with overgrown jungles, however this flashback is simply the most beautiful example.
So far, this series does not make any connections to any other works in the Valiant Universe. It does continue the story started in X-O Manowar Vol. 1: By the Sword (Review) and will continue the story in X-O Manowar Vol. 4: Homecoming.