Part One – X-O Manowar #1
Reading X-O Manowar #2 by Robert Venditti, Cary Nord, Stefano Gaudiano and Moose Baumann, there is only one way this can end. As set up by the first issue, and from reading the previous series, captured by aliens Visigoth, Aric, has to get the alien X-O Manowar suit from where it is guarded, and he must discover he is compatible with it. We know that has happened in the classic tales, we know with this retelling that it will happen. The covers, the point, the plot, everything points in this direction, as clearly as a flashforward would have given us. Though, we do get a wifesex flashback to contrast with his new indentured reality.
But this issue and the first, are all about the journey. The harsh journey, spread out across years, suffering serious injuries, losing a hand, working in the alien plantations – and the human slavery parallel seems an obvious one here – with so much planning and forethought and leaving many dead, leads to this moment. It plays out like destiny, but in reality it seems to be blind chance that such a situation has been reached.
That the only known being compatible with the armour, would be living on a backward planet, coincidentally visited by the alien race that possess the armour, that he would be imprisoned by them and he would be able to lead a rebellion and be one of the few that would survive it. But that is often the rebel’s story. And looking back there was only ever one path.
And then everything changes.
Harbinger #1 by Joshua Dysart, Khari Evans and Ian Hannin also takes a historical bent, over a smaller space of time. Its very name is one pointed to the future however, and we head there fast. It begins with a plot that seems a reflection of that in X-O Manowar that month. So we start in 1951, showing us the teenage days of Toyo Harada, a powerful psychic, just like Aric, fighting and killing his own way through soldiers, choosing brain over Aric’s brawn, to meet his own destiny, the Bleeding Monk, a visual highlight of the issue.
It is a relationship that will be paralleled by modern day teenage psychic Peter Stanchek and Harada, when they meet at the end of the issue, there’s the strong idea of knowledge that has already been passed down, is being passed down again. The motivations are, however unknown, and at this state there is no suggestion that the plot needs to go down the path from the classic Valiant series. This Harada is an international mogul, with the media acting like puppets but he’s not the bad guy. Not yet. And there are others….
The expression of telepathy as a cascade of thought/speech balloons from all those around Peter, isn’t an original one, but the constancy of its use, especially on the cover, gives the book a signature from the get go
It’s a book about lack of trust, giving us a couple of lead characters who are paranoid. It also makes the unusual and brave move of making its lead character, Peter a rapist, someone who uses his powers to force someone from his past to fall in love him, who he then appears to have sex with. Instantly, it’s separates the two books, one showing us the love of a wife in a committed relationship, and this, the abuse of powers by a very disturbed person, a stalker given power beyond his control. As ever, rape is not about sex, but about power, and this is how Peter seems to try and control his world. It’s a science fiction trope, but it’s one that the realities and the consequences of, aren’t as ignored as they may have been in the past. It’s skated by in this issue but, as with X-O Manowar, there are consequences to actions, and it asks the reader, who is the real bad guy here? This is, after all, a harbinger to what is to come…
Reading Valiant In Order, Month 2 – X-O Manowar #1, Harbinger #1