Written by: Robert Venditti
Art by: Doug Braithwaite
Somehow, Armor Hunters #3, the penultimate chapter, manages to be more than just set up for the finale to Valiant’s summer event. It’s something that a lot of event comics fail to do, but with just four issues to work with, every issue of Armor Hunters has to be packed with plot progression and cover to cover action. This issue kicks off with Bloodshot and the Lady Colonel (as Aric calls here) battling an “acid-spitting space dragon.” And you know what? It’s dialogue and action scenes like the first page of this issue that make this event so engaging.
As readers may remember, Armor Hunters #2 ended with the Armor Hunters’s first major offensive (aside from nuking Mexico City) being repelled by Aric, but not without high casualties. The first half of this issue is spent dealing with the repercussions of the massive battle that occurred in the previous issue. All of the major players, aside from Bloodshot, who stays in MERO to finish off Lilt (the acid spitting space dragon) converge on the Loveboat, a massive, airborne HQ for MERO. Aric and Livewire are both there, and Eternal Warrior and Ninjak are also shown to be en route. After the one page that those two are given in this issue, I’m convinced that they need an ongoing, or at least a mini. Venditti nails the two characters almost perfectly, and having the two play off of each other provides the best scene in the book.
During the clam between storms, Aric also decides that he’s willing to sacrifice the armor if it means ending the bloodshed. This is a great piece of character development for the character. His name may be X-O Manowar, but there’s more to him than just beating his enemies senseless. And it’s not as if this comes out of nowhere – this particular development for the character has been coming for a while, and the events of the last issue were really the straw that broke the camel’s back. Despite his insistence on giving in, Colonel Capshaw has other plans. Rather than completely give up halfway into the penultimate issue, she dispatches Livewire wearing the X-O suit to take the fight to the Armor Hunters, under the guise of surrender.
As a result, the second half of the book becomes a massive action set piece, worthy of a summer blockbuster. Doug Braithwaite’s pencils make this scene come alive, conveying the action perfectly. It’s great that Venditti is able to strike a balance between the smarter aspects of this book (plot and character progression) while still maintaining a lot of the dumb fun (the massive action scenes) that bring excitement to the book. Armor Hunters #3 was a great issue of Valiant’s summer event, reminding comic book readers how great events can be. It brings massive spectacle to the table, but it doesn’t rely solely on that to maintain the interest of the readers.
The one flaw in this event is the villains. The Armor Hunters are scary and intimidating, but it’s still not entirely clear what their deal is. Yes, the tie ins have explored their backstories a little, so their motivations aren’t what I’m calling into question. The issue here is with their characterization. When they aren’t blending into each other, it’s hard to understand the decisions they make. Yes, I know why they want to kill Aric, but other decisions are less clear, making a stain on an otherwise flawless event.