The powerful armor that makes Aric of Dacia into the mighty X-O Manowar is an alien artifact. But what about the beings who *created* it? Your Major Spoilers review of Armor Hunters #1 awaits!
ARMOR HUNTERS #1
Writer: Robert Venditti
Artist: Doug Braithwaite
Colorist: Laura Martin
Letterer: Dave Sharpe
Editor: Warren Simons
Publisher: Valiant Entertainment
Cover Price: $3.99
Previously in Armor Hunters: “Born into battle, Aric of Dacia, heir to the throne of the Visigoth people, never knew peace. Abducted during a midnight scouting raid and taken to the far reaches of space, Aric and his fellow Visigoth captives lived their lives as slaves to the Vine, with no hope of escape. After several years of captivity aboard a Vine colony ship, Aric led a revolt against his alien captors, storming the hallowed temple of the Vine and stealing their most powerful relic, Shanhara, the sentient X-O Manowar armor. Aric bonded with the armor-the first being in living memory to survive the process-and turned the Vine’s most powerful weapon against them. Returning to Earth with his new kinsmen in tow, Aric decided to reestablish an ancestral Visigoth homeland in its present-day location within Romania, a decision which quickly drew the ire of the neighboring Russian government. That went poorly for some time, but Aric, finally reunited with the X-O Manowar armor, works as an agent of M.E.R.O., protecting American interests on and above the Earth.”
UPPING THE ANTE
We open in a secret underground base somewhere in Russia, a facility where scientists are attempting to reverse engineer technology based on Aric’s X-O armor. Suddenly the door blow open, and giant armored monsters enter, tearing the place apart in search of… something. The facility is utterly destroyed in just a matter of minutes, and not long after, we see armored flying vehicles entering the airspace of X-O’s settlement. The plot reads an awful lot like the first fifteen minutes of a giant action movie, as Aric is pulled in by the clandestine agency M.E.R.O. and briefed on the attack, then interrogated one of his previous villains, a man named Malgam who screams wildly that it’s already too late. Our heroes discover the truth in that statement when they discover the Armor Hunters’ orbital base, a massive robotic construct floating in the upper ionosphere. Even X-O is taken aback by the size and might of the strange ship/armor, when M.E.R.O.’s viewscreens suddenly fill with the face of the alien commander. He offers them parlay, indicating that if Aric gives up the armor, they’ll leave peacefully. When they refuse, the aliens point their weaponry at the Earth..
“GOD IN HEAVEN… IT’S GONE.”
…and within seconds, the entirety of Mexico City is gone. Utterly annihilated by the Armor Hunters… It’s an interesting conceit, made even more gripping by the photo-realistic art of Doug Braithwaite. The villains are visually interesting, if not particularly distinctive (any or all of them might have come from the original 1990’s run of Valiant comics), but their show of force makes them threatening in a way most super-villains aren’t. Yes, the “Destroy a major population center” card is played a lot these days, but the suddenness of the escalation here helps it to work better, and I’m interested to see what will happen. The issue is also filled with previews of upcoming stories featuring Harbinger and Valiant’s other heroes versus the Armor Hunters, making it clear that summer crossover season is officially upon us. Still, Venditti’s take on X-O is an interesting one, building on what has gone before while seeming fresh and modern enough to differentiate itself from the old Valiant and VH2 heroes. Most importantly, our hero is finally faced with villains who can match his sheer power, forcing him to work with more than just his armor’s devastating combat prowess.
THE BOTTOM LINE: PRETTY HEAVY STUFF
In short, this issue serves as a good first chapter, kicking off the big multi-title event, and does so with a well-written well-drawn issue. While the idea of “giant aliens coming to blow $#!+ up” may not be a new one, particularly to long-time Valiant readers, having the conflicts be approachable and lucid helps greatly. Armor Hunters #1 is a decent springboard to bigger things, deftly explaining the main character, introducing and legitimizing the villains, and setting the pieces up for a big ol’ summer blockbuster, and that’s perfectly okay, earning the book 3 out of 5 star overall. I’m kind of interested to see how this all shakes down for Valiant, and how Venditti will build on Aric’s mythology with the introduction of these new foes.