The Story: Aric discovers that the Visigoth lives on Loam as slaves to the Vine as he finds out he still want to pretty much kill everyone on this planet.
The Review: If there’s one thing that this story cannot be accused of lacking, it’s scope. Let’s see what the synopsis could be so far for X-O Manowar: a Visigoth from 402 A.D. with a powerful alien armor decides to destroy an alien species by committing massive genocide on their home planet of Loam out of vengeance for having suffered in slavery to the Vine. That is what we could call a grand set for what could very well be something very big and memorable. With the big twist that the Visigoth people that had been enslaved by the Vine had been kept on their home planet and were allowed to continue to breed does bring a whole new dimension to the tale that could have been a simple revenge tale about a pissed off barbarian in alien armor being badass. Even better, during this whole issue, we get to see a bit more about the whole religious and political debate amongst the higher ranking Vine, showing us the division between the castes already. This gives us some kind of reversal of expectation, as the title Planet Death does gives away that something utterly bad will happen, yet the pieces are moving in very interesting, yet unexpected ways. Will the religious caste follow Aric in his dedication of genocide? Will he mellow out and perhaps let the fact that the armor of Shanhara has chosen him dictate that he should lead the Vine? Will he actually kill everyone in a burst of powerful rage? All of these options seem viable, among many others, making the main tale very interesting indeed.
What a little bit less interesting, strangely, would be Aric himself, as he is not shown to be very introspective or even very thoughtful of his actions. While this does seems to be the course of who he is, it makes for a rather boring character sometimes, always charging for more fights and never just stopping for a minute to just ponder about what he is doing and what other options he could choose. Of course, Aric is a barbarian that has done close to nothing beside fight the Roman empire for years and he has a warrior spirit through and through, yet his response to everything so far has been to just bash it or shoot at it with the huge power set the armor provides him. With so huge a story and concepts so ripe with potential, it seems a tad disappointing to concentrate more on action and less on just what makes the Vine who they are.
What also a bit disappointing here would be Cary Nord and his somewhat sketchy art. While it is a style that does give us some beautiful visual in the form of some of the backgrounds and the Vine technology, it sorely lacks in details. A lot of these characters or technologies have some intricate designs in their clothes and parts, which aren’t truly shown here. The Shanhara armor specifically seems a tad under-detailed, with broad lines rather than the more precise ones shown by other artists in the earlier arc with Ninjak. While he does lack in detail, there is one where he is most effective and it would the faces. While not all the Vines have very precise emotions, Cary Nord does his best which is noticeable, especially with the priest following Aric around. His humans, though, fare much better as Aric and the female character introduced here are rather expressive thanks to the clearer work done on their faces in some key scenes. If there is one star in this issue on the art side, it would have to be Moose Baumann with his very clever depiction of the alien world of Loam. Red and warm skies, grey and cold machinery with the exception of the Shanhara armor and absolutely huge explosions with lots of degradation, the man knows his colors and it shows.
The Conclusion: This issue showcase a very interesting world along with a story that is ripe with potential for interesting development, yet it is a bit brought down by a rather boring main character and some trouble with the art.