Valiant Comics continues its rise from the ashes with a new issue of X-O Manowar, written by Robert Venditti and drawn by Cary Nord. Issue #2 picks up with Aric of Dacia toiling away with other prisoners aboard one of the Vine’s ships.

If you’re an old fan of X-O Manowar, there aren’t any real spoilers as Venditti stays faithful to the origin story of Aric for the most part. He just adds a few wrinkles to the story that indicate he will be taking the story in a fresh direction that honors the past, but makes the story more relevant to the times.

As usual, Venditti impresses by telling the story without any gimmicks. He writes a good, old-fashioned story with great craft, strong plotting, and dialogue that gives a sense of character. The only downside to the story has been the characterization of the Vine.

The best antagonists are the ones that are rendered in a more complex and thoughtful manner. So far, the Vine seems like a bunch of one-dimensional thugs without Venditti providing much insight into how and why they do what they do. The only hint he offers has to do with the symbolism in their name and what they have prisoners work on inside the ships.

Since this review shall remain spoiler free for newcomers to the series, I will not elaborate any further than that. This is something that old fans of the series will find new as well.

Where Venditti continues to do his best work rests on his pacing. He has a fantastic sense of what should happen in each part of the story and for how long. His creativity in moving the plot along uses the old adage of less being more. Taking complex ideas and boiling them down to their essence is tough, but Venditti make it appear effortless.

Cary Nord’s artwork has been surprisingly good in this series. His prior work on Conan lends itself well to the early portion of Aric’s life before he wears the X-O Manowar suit. He handles the more technology laden scenes with flying colors, showing he’s capable of drawing more than just warriors.

Moose Baumann also continues to render amazing coloring for Nord’s artwork. He’s one of those colorists that gets how color can transform a readers perception of characters. When the title moves out of its dark phase, I think Baumann will really show off his talents.

The story moves to a satisfying conclusion as Aric truly begins his journey, leaving a lot more in store for readers. Overall I grade the story by Venditti a solid B+ and give Nord and Baumann a solid A for their outstanding contributions to the story.

As a bonus, readers get a Bloodshot #1 preview that shows that Valiant isn’t fooling around. The four-page preview, written by Duane Swierczynski and drawn by the team of Arturo Lozzi, Manuel Garcia, and Stefano Gaudiano, shows a lot of promise.

This issue will be out on June, 6 at your local comic shops.