Review by Frank Plowright
Spoilers in review
When collected in bulky paginations in oversized deluxe editions, it’s apparent how rapidly Robert Venditti moves his story forward, and how Aric, X-O, is changed by circumstances. It wasn’t so obvious with the third Deluxe Edition concentrating on the Armor Hunters and their missions. Here, however, the new Armorines are introduced, there’s a reprise for the Armor Hunters as their technology infests the Vine’s home planet, and there’s a mass evacuation to Earth. Oh, and along the way Aric gets married. Some sections are stronger than others.
Diego Bernard draws considerably more of this collection than any other artist, and as was the case in the previous Deluxe Edition, his work only improves for being presented at a larger size. He can switch between fantastic action and what under other artists would be ordinary talking heads, but there’s always something neat to look for in his pages, even if when just establishing scenes. The sample art requires designing a dozen strange alien creatures, but Bernard doesn’t slacken off with generic shapes or shadows because it’s a relatively small sequence, and turns out some seriously nutty designs. Rafa Sandoval on the closing chapters is disappointing in comparison as he doesn’t put that effort in. A story requiring some sense of scale isn’t effective reduced to one on one microcosm when spectacular battle scenes are needed.
It’s the opening Armorines sequence that’s the most satisfying, as both Venditti and Bernard are on top form in constructing what seems an inescapable trap for Aric, and parallels with real world political compromise and commercial ethics never far away. The following visit to the alien planet has a terrifying premise, but the story never lives up to it, padded in parts, and there’s an element of Aric just going from one planet levelling threat to another, with the repetition having diminishing returns. Aric’s wedding is button pushing sentimentality, although Sandoval’s best work. The final sequence increases the tension as the Vine arrive on Earth and the key moral issue becomes where Aric’s allegiance should lie. It’s clever, and revives a threat that leads into the conclusion of Venditti’s run in Deluxe Edition 5.
Assorted other creators contribute short pieces that originally bulked out the wedding issue. All their pieces work for what they are, without any of them being very memorable.