Publisher: Valiant
Writer: Dennis Hopeless
Artist: Emilio Laiso
Inker: Raffaele Forte
Colourist: Ruth Redmond
Letterer: Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou

When we last saw Aric things were not going well as against the advice of Shanhara and his backer/PR guru/Friend(?) Troy he had decided to battle a strange green nanite monster. This left him at the bottom of the sea with Shanhara eerily quiet and drowning seeming like a real possibility. I am not going to say what happens exactly but he doesn’t end up sleeping with the fishes. There is however trauma to come.

After having the relationship built up between Aric and Shanhara over the last trade, here our partners are separated. The suit is recovering but the mind of Shanhara may be another matter. Even though that partnership isn’t on the page in the traditional sense you still feel the emotion there. Aric is clearly very concerned for the being whom he is closest to in the world.

I will spoil things to say we do get to see more of Shanhara, literally, and it is well worth it. She has such a great personality and we get to see what’s going on in her head or at the very least the reality in which she finds herself. It’s weird seeing sentient armour running around in a strange virtual world, but it feels like a really good direction to take the story and Shanhara’s character. What I love is again we get the relationship between her and Aric. There’s a line she says ‘What would Aric do?’ which nicely echoes a line of Aric’s from earlier which was ‘what would Shanhara do?’ showing the deep respect and appreciation these two have for each other.

I said Troy was going to be important and sure enough here he saves Aric and provides some excellent plot exposition. The green nanite monster appears to be related to supposed robot overlords (Troy’s words) who are after Shanhara. Quite why we don’t know but it seems like our favourite alien AI suit and displaced Visigoth are going to have some battles on their hands. It’s a good job that they have an ally like Troy on their side.

It’s sort of sad for Aric as he’s not technologically au fait, he’s more of a punchy punchy guy and this whole thing is sort of out of his area of expertise, though he has enough intelligence to realise that the robot overlords are after Shanhara specifically. He relies on Shanhara to navigate the technological aspects of the world and without her he seems really rather lost. The art even reflects it. Never have I seen Aric look so really sad and depressed before whilst staring at the suit.

The art generally keeps up the quality. Not only do we get sad Aric but we also get the strange world Shanhara is stuck in. The design for Shanhara is also really interesting. I see echoes of another Valiant character in there but I won’t spoil it by speculating which. What she’s facing feels like a technological equivalent of the trials Aric has faced in the past.

I am very concerned for my favourite crime fighting 5th century Visigoth and alien AI suit duo. I want to see them reunited. At the same time I do enjoy the angst of them apart and sad Aric is a very interesting Aric. Luckily Aric is not alone though and I have high hopes for what Troy can do. It’s also nice to have Aric, the old barbarian type, play off against a modern billionaire playboy who likes building robots. I don’t think we’ve seen Aric interact with that sort of character before and it’s nice to see something new.

With heroic rescue, plot advancement and some really interesting reveals X-O Manowar #5 very much keeps up the pace of the first trade as we enter this new part of Aric’s story. I cannot wait for more.

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