The sixth volume in Valiant’s ongoing adventures of a barbarian out of time continues with Aric finding out that he might not be as unique as he thought and not have the only suit of armour in the universe. While on a mission for Colonel Capshaw up near the Chinese space station, Aric comes upon what he thinks is a simple rescue mission when he is attacked by a creature with armour similar to his own. What follows is a battle with an alien almost a match for X-O, but not quite. Meanwhile, the book cuts away to some alien hunters who have just killed another being wearing a very familiar sort of armour. Primary, Helix, Quartz and Gin-Gr have a mission, and that mission is to hunt down those that wear the armours, believing them some sort of threat. Their next target just so happens to be a familiar one.
Robert Venditti continues to tackle our armoured hero and he does a good job of doing so. The latest volume is a lead-in to the company’s next big event, Armour Hunters, and the book does what it is supposed to do by setting it up with the introduction of a mystery and the possible reveal of the big bad. With the revelation that Aric’s armour might not be the only suit in the universe, it will be interesting to see just where the book will go, and what it will mean for our barbarian hero. Any number of events could take place after this point and Venditti has set it up so that he leaves these questions hanging there, though being the expert writer he is, there is sure to be a plan in place to address them, not to mention the upcoming crossover.
Aric of course, is still the brash and arrogant man that everyone knows and loves, though you can see Venditti injecting a little humility into him, but just a little. It is also noticeable that Aric is finally starting to come to terms with his situation and the world he lives in now. He still prefers the company of his people, which will more than likely never change, but he is starting to understand this new land and time, and though he does not like it, he has to make the best of it. His battle with the alien creature and what it means has definitely opened his eyes, especially to what his armour is and is not capable of and it scares him as he realizes he really does not know anything about the thing that he wears.
The new threat that makes itself known in the final chapter of the book looks like a very intriguing bunch of characters. Their motivations for hunting down the armours are not exactly made known to the reader, but it is an interesting premise and or course will most likely be revealed in the big upcoming event. While all of the characters look quite unique, it is Primary who strikes the reader with the most resonance, though artistically and design-wise, it is Gin-Gr who is the most fascinating of the bunch being both ship and possible hunter. Going forward, having them in the book will only be a good thing.
Another wonderful thing for the book is a regular artist to finally give it a little consistency in the form of Diego Bernard. His pencils are clean and detailed and look like they belong on a superhero book. His designs of the new hunters are fantastic, his battle scenes are exciting and dynamic and he can draw a giant robot like nobody’s business. Hopefully he will remain on the book for a good long while, though of course nothing is for certain, but the title has had numerous artists now so it would be nice if they could just stick to one for a while, that one being Diego Bernard.
Also included in the book are some short stories by other artists, as the twenty-fifth issue of X-O is a milestone in the new Valiant Universe, something had to be done to celebrate that. Written and drawn by a variety of people, the best and most unlikely story of all came from Andy Runton, who if you do not know, writes and draws the incredibly fun, Owly. Not only did Runton do a story about X-O, specifically Shanhara, but he also brought Owly along for one of the most unusual, but greatest crossovers of all time. If the phrase `out of the blue,’ referred to anything, it is this marvelous little tale.
Though it is always nice to go on an adventure with Aric, the alien armour-clad, man-out-of-time barbarian, it would have been nice if Valiant could have squeezed in an extra story. The added little tales we got by other people were great, but sometimes when it comes to the Valiant trade paperback program, you just want a little more. Other than that, Bernard and Venditti did a great job on the book and make you want to read the next chapter of the ongoing saga that this title entails.
4 out of 5