"X-O Manowar" #2 hits the sweet spot where everything is set up and now Robert Venditti and Cary Nord can have some fun. We have our Visigoth lead, Aric, on a spaceship belonging to the Vine and from there, things just get worse. This issue is a violent quest/jailbreak infused with some bittersweet emotions throughout. This book goes toe-to-toe with most cape comics from the other companies.
The tale is simple enough and most of the plot progression you can generally see coming. What sets this issue above is Venditti's ability to seed great character nuance into the dialogue and smaller beats. Aric, a savage man from a time well beyond our honest comprehension, is instantly humanized when we see his wife at the start of the issue and later as he talks and works with his friend Gafti. Venditti sneakily repeats this process with the "villains" of the book. Hints are dropped about the Vine through certain lines and actions that make it seem as though we don't know everything about this race simply because we've seen them take slaves. Venditti puts readers in a position where our instincts will judge harshly but there is a chance we might be wrong. Such uncertainty is smart to play and very well executed.
When you pick up a comic about a barbarian who might soon get a suit of highly advanced fighting armor, you expect to see some things get smashed up -- and by things, I clearly mean alien scumbags. There is plenty of action on these pages that will delight you as they also work for the story. Every swipe of a blade feels brutal and gets its own moment. This book is a vicious and nasty ride at times.
Cary Nord is extremely well suited to this book. He's able to differentiate characters that might otherwise blend into the background. He sets scene well and understands how to tell the story across the page. His action is also stellar as he opens up the throats and bellies of the Vine. For every moment of kinetic frenzy, Nord also takes on board a quiet moment and makes it work. His landscape building in the Vine garden is phenomenal. It helps that Moose Baumann colors these scenes brilliantly so as to highlight the strange and different nature of the place these Visigoths find themselves.
"X-O Manowar" #2 is an incredibly enjoyable action comic. Venditti and Nord make the action matter because it is built around characters. There's a lot to like in this issue and it shows the title is on a nice and steady path from liftoff. It is intriguing, baffling and pleasantly surprising to see this property resurrected without any of the drawbacks of the '90s. "X-O Manowar" is back and you need to check it out.