X-O MANOWAR #4 by Matt Kindt and Doug Braithwaite
In the best issue to date, X-O MANOWAR #4 both develops the main character and incorporates amazing action scenes.
100 %
Four for Four

Longstanding comics like X-O MANOWAR are great, but they normally are not known for character development. After all, audiences tend to find comfort in their favorite characters remaining the same. However, X-O MANOWAR #4 breaks this mold. In the original promotions for this X-O MANOWAR reboot, Valiant promised a steady progression for the titular character. Aric, the wielder of the Manowar armor, was supposed to evolve from Soldier to General to Emperor to Visigoth.

Besides being an amazing sci-fi adventure comic, this issue is a rare example of fully realized character development. There is a notable, interesting difference in Aric from issue #3 to #4. Writer Matt Kindt and artist Doug Braithwaite churn out another groundbreaking issue.

X-O Manowar #4
Image from X-O MANOWAR #4, courtesy of Valiant.

The War Rages On

X-O MANOWAR #4 continues Aric’s forced conscription into an alien army. Aric is now commanding a ragtag battalion on a mission to capture the enemy’s leader. Kindt does a phenomenal job of illustrating how Aric is torn between his personal life and his duty. The hero is essentially a slave to his arm. Yet, he excels in his role as a soldier and a general.

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Kindt begins the series with Aric attempting to lead a simple farm life. However, the more Aric tries to leave behind his formerly violent lifestyle, the more he gets pulled back in. Kindt’s ongoing story continues to hammer in the theme that Aric cannot escape his violent nature. Despite being an unwilling participant, he continues to be a masterful leader and savage warrior. We know that Aric will eventually return to his barbaric Visigoth roots. It is heart-wrenching to see fate pull him back to a life he so desperately wants to leave behind.

These past four issues have all revolved around a specific military mission. Rather than feeling repetitive, Kindt makes each battle feel fresh. The stakes keep getting higher. Now, Aric has the opportunity to end the war with one final mission and return home. However, he still distrusts his alien captors. Sent on another seemingly impossible suicide mission to enemy territory, Aric must continue to keep his hopes of a quiet life in check.

X-O Manowar #4
Image from X-O MANOWAR #4, courtesy of Valiant.

The Quiet Hero

Kindt’s dialogue is especially sharp in this issue. Aric exudes calm and power in his short, stoic speech. He never lets his emotions get the best of him, despite the dire situations in which he finds himself. His contemporaries in the army are far more emotional and unsure. X-O MANOWAR #4’s dialogue is a constant reminder that Aric is the consummate soldier. He can’t help but lead. Less is definitely more when it comes to the dialogue in this comic.

X-O Manowar #4
Image from X-O MANOWAR #4, courtesy of Valiant.

The Armor Wants Back In

Kindt continues to merely tease the armor in the story. X-O MANOWAR #4 continues to keep the focus on Aric as a person, rather than Aric as an armor wielding superhero. Aric’s powerful X-O Manowar armor is essentially the ultimate deus ex machina. It is so powerful that almost any fight would end instantly. Its inclusion would severely hinder the story for two reasons: it would distract from Aric’s more human elements, and the fights would be meaningless.

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In these issues, the armor is a menacing figure in the background. It promises Aric great power but at an even greater cost. There is some darkness lurking in the armor that Aric fears. However, as the war wages on and Aric becomes closer to his fellow soldiers, his guilt may overcome him. He has the ultimate war-ender in his back pocket. But he is still afraid to use it. Should Aric let his friends die just because he doesn’t want his past to haunt him again?

Kindt does a phenomenal job of giving the armor doses of personality. The reader gets a feel for the sentient armor through lines like: “I won’t let you die Aric. No matter how much you might want to.” However, many questions still remain. Does the armor actually care about Aric? What is the danger in using it? Why did Aric stop using it in the first place? Mysteries like these add another engrossing layer to X-O MANOWAR #4.

X-O Manowar #4
Image from X-O MANOWAR #4, courtesy of Valiant.

Brutal but Beautiful Battles

X-O MANOWAR #4 is essentially one long battle scene with spurts of dialogue interspersed. While this might sound exciting, it can be extremely grating to watch one high throttle action scene. However, Braithwaite’s art is varied and expansive enough to hold the reader’s attention. He goes big with the art in this issue. Braithwaite incorporates huge wide establishing shots that are detailed renderings of the alien world. We see Tatooine-esque deserts and treacherous ice fields. There are detailed, otherworldly alien spaceship interiors and expansive sunset filled prairies. The world of this book is gorgeous. As the battle changes setting, there is always something amazing to look at.

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Braithwaite’s battle scenes are brutal and dynamic. He uses skewed angles and close up shots to really heighten the action. Braithwaite turns up his portrayal of Aric’s fierce fighting a notch by adding these stylistic features. The fighting in this book has a cinematic quality. Also, the action in this book feels sci-fi-y. There are not just simple punches, kicks, and sword slashes, but big green acid balls, energy swords, and futuristic firearms. Braithwaite stages the big battles like medieval warfare. Yet he also skillfully incorporates these futuristic twists.

Final Thoughts on X-O MANOWAR #4

Predictably, X-O MANOWAR #4 is another home run. This series gets better and better and deeper and deeper. Everything that Kindt attempts shines. This is by far the best series of the year and maybe the best reboot of all time. Another perfect score for a seemingly perfect book.

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