Bad hair day

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

So here we are at the end of what has for me been the most enjoyable run of X-O. It’s brought something new to the whole concept of the X-O armour and given Shanhara a voice. Spending time with her as her a character in her own right has really brought a breath of fresh air to X-O Manowar, the Valiant character who has had the most exposure over the years. There’s been some long runs of X-O and this was in comparison pretty short. However, what it liked in quantity it made up with in quality.

Things looked really rather bleak last issue with Aric in the clutches of Troy and Shanhara all but destroyed. I am glad to say that isn’t the end of it and there’s life in the old X-O yet. I don’t want to spoil how things go but I will say that I very much appreciated the method of the solution that it wasn’t brute strength entirely (I mean punching things does help) that needed to be used. It feels like Aric has learnt something.

That’s what this run has done, it’s made me like for and root for Aric. I don’t think I have liked Aric more. I hope we see more of this version of him because it’s one I would appreciate sticking around.

The pacing is solid. There’s enough time to have a decent resolution without skimping on the detail of that resolution but also the events leading up to it. There’s still plenty of tension as it’s not a foregone conclusion how things will turn out. I was very much page turning on the first read through hoping it would all work out.

There are some really nice little insights into humanity itself as the AI Singularity battles concepts that are not familiar to it. I do like when a good advanced alien machine is faced with present day chaotic humanity and doesn’t understand. It’s a strong sci-fi trope and it’s used to great effect here. It also nicely contrasts the Singularity with Shanhara an AI who chooses to be bonded to a chaotic emotional human.

The writing and design of the Singularity remains interesting. We see the green material all over the city and it’s strange alien, organic, crystalline nature remains very effective. That feeds into the strange white and red X-O style armour that Troy wears. That armour echoes the X-O Manowar armour but retains differences. You can tell that it’s been based off Shanhara’s technology. This contrasts nicely with the more ghost like humanoid representation of the Singularity. It’s all really well put together.

The way the panels are put together works nicely too. I like the close-up of Aric’s bloodied mouth in one panel, the circles that show the different uprisings the Singularity sees, and the way the remnants of the X-O armour cling to Aric, almost part of him. There’s some nice action as well, especially with Desmond’s mother rushing in to help. Not to mention, and this is a spoiler, something of a showdown between Troy and Aric.

The colouring is solid throughout. It’s not easy with the amount of green on some of the pages but it never looks dull or formless. There’s a really nice texture to it and that helps add to the alien organic feel. There’s some really nice bight use of colours as well. The colouring does work excellently with the line art. It fits together so well.

The lettering also impresses. The speech of the Singularity and the various repeated echoed statements is done so well you can hear the weird way the Singularity must speak, with echoing voices. It also works with Troy’s announcements coming out of different screens. Not to mention onomatopoeia and the quality of Aric’s speech too. It’s just solid work.

Overall this final issue of this X-O Manowar run is a great finale. It brings together the quality of the writing, art, colouring and lettering we have seen throughout the run. It’s made me actually like Aric which is honestly the highest praise I can give an X-O book. With this run complete I would highly recommend checking it out. For me it’s been the most fun book Valiant have put out this year. It’s good to see one of their most ionic characters getting such good treatment

We get a teaser for X-O’s return in 2022 but I do hope that many elements of this run are kept because, well, I want to keep liking Aric. His friendship with Shanhara has never been more interesting for me. Plus he has a strong cast of supporting characters. More of this sort of thing please.

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