Review by Frank Plowright
All Valiant collections of their serialised comics eventually hit a point when they reach the 25th issue. These are doubled edged swords, not least because their celebratory extra length is used as an excuse by Valiant to feature one less issue than normal in collections (although, to be fair, how story arcs break down over individual issues is also a consideration). In X-O’s case, however, this collection comprises of just three individual comics, and a considerable portion of it not the work of regular writer Robert Venditti.
As the title suggests, this is really just a teaser for the crossover event of Armor Hunters, and there’s a case to be made for just skipping straight ahead to that. X-O began with a visigoth from 400AD acquiring futuristic armour that would only bond with him. Many have coveted it, but the bond remains exclusive. Prelude to Armor Hunters introduces a second armoured being, drops several hints about the armour not being benign, and then shows a quartet of aliens on a distant world hunting those wearing the X-O armour. A few nice touches characterise Venditti’s script, the wonder of running water for one, but it’s fifty pages of set-up prior to that 25th issue. This segment is very nicely drawn by Diego Bernard, who continues with a story fleshing out the alien hunters and how they’ve saved a world. Again, it’s a nicely drawn teaser offering little of note, although as the characters were later spun off into their own series some may locate relevance.
Beyond that point the regular creators and ongoing storylines are largely sidelined. Venditti does write a brief interlude with Aric discovering the fate of his uncle four hundred years previously, but it’s drawn in the most perfunctory manner by Bryan Hitch, which was presumably the attraction in the first place, as the story is slight. Justin Jordan and Rafer Roberts’ gag strip of X-O and Shadowman in a bar is more filler, and Andy Runton armouring his Owly character is charming, but also slight.
All this still leaves the book twenty pages shy of a graphic novel, and these are filled with character information illustrated by Sean Chen, assorted covers and pin-up pages, and just in case we needed to see it again, Hitch’s pages reprinted without colour. The back pages also present excerpts from Venditti’s original series proposal. This is interesting, displaying how the course of the series deviated from some original suggestions.
Perhaps better overall value, although more expensive, is volume three of the hardcover X-O Deluxe Edition, which combines this with X-O: Armor Hunters, and the Armor Hunters solo title.