Lightning catcher

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

There are times when I want to slap Aric. It’s a feeling I’ve had often over the years. It happens in every run of X-O Manowar. This series has done well in that it’s really only the last couple of issues where my need to slap sense into Aric has appeared. Honestly he’s still trying his best though so I can forgive him a little for that. I still really like this Aric and I do feel for him because this was a really tense issue and the cliff hanger ending… my goodness. Is it November yet?

When last we left Aric he was naked in amongst destruction as Shanhara seemingly malfunctioned and, well, slammed into Paris. It wasn’t pretty. Now Aric is confused, naked and in search of a bottle of water. I really loved how there was a touch of humour in what was otherwise quite a grim moment. The tonal balance was spot on.

I don’t want to give too much of the plot because there’s a pretty big OH NO! twist in this issue, only really revealed toward the end. I will say it was nice to see the real Shanhara fighting back a bit. I am still disappointed we haven’t had another look at what exactly is going on in the virtual plane we saw her in several issues ago as I felt that would have been really interesting to explore, to see how she is trying to fight back. However, that’s my only complaint which, all things considered, isn’t bad as it’s just a sign how much I am invested in Shanhara’s character.

I am also more invested in Desmond’s character too. He’s turned out to be a really good addition and I am not usually a fan of child characters in books like this, but Desmond has won me over. It’s nice to see someone else who can interact with Shanhara but on a different level to Aric. Aric clearly cares for Shanhara a great deal, that’s very much on show this issue, but Aric is quite focussed on getting a job done. Desmond is simply a friend.

With the suit under strain plot wise we also see that strain in the art. The suit art continues to work really well. There’s a lot going on with the suit, with malfunctions and failures but it’s always interesting in the art, the living suit aspect is very well developed by this point. Special credit to the moment where the suit comes back to naked Aric and starts from a very strategic place, very well handled. Aric’s modesty is preserved.

There are some really nice explosions and action too. It seems weird to say an explosion is pretty, but it is. I mean awful for those involved I’m sure but yeah, pretty. While Aric flying around battling nanites or hanging onto a missile always has a fluid sense of movement. You can believe this is a man out of time in a fancy suit flying about the world. It also really helps keep the tension and pace up. There are such nice touches for the moment with various techniques being used and working well.

Aric’s facial expressions are also a source of joy. They are also well done as he switches from concern to determination and then confusion. I do feel like I get to know Aric more in the art as it gives me a proper window into his emotions. Desmond too as he had a few shocks this issue. It’s always hard to draw kids well and effectively but here he feels like a proper character and that’s really good.

I will also say the lettering remains on point. There’s a lot to juggle here at points with the suit, Shanhara, Aric and Troy all speaking but I am never in doubt as to who is speaking and there’s never too much confusing speech. And some lovely onomatopoeia.

The next issue I believe in the penultimate one. This issue has certainly set things up for a showdown of epic proportions. I was on the edge of my seat reading this issue as it is full of tense moments and action. And also me willing Aric to catch on already. I am so invested in him and Shanhara the wait for the next issue is going to feel very long.

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