This week, Venditti brought Aric of Dacia (along with the rest of the Valiant Universe) one step closer to Armor Hunters. Last issue, Aric was patrolling wreckage from the recent Vine invasion, when a mysterious figure hurtled into sight causing the deaths of some Chinese cosmonauts who happened to be in the area on a scavenging mission of their own. Soon Aric is locked in fierce conflict with this creature who appears to be wearing a ragged, damaged version of Aric’s own armor, Shanhara.
At the start of #24, Venditti takes the opportunity to show the growth Aric has made since first returning to earth. The events of the previous Unity arc have left an impression on Aric; he is now less likely to plunge recklessly into battle. Seeing that his opponent is clearly in pain, Aric offers his assistance. Aric tries his best to negotiate himself out of further conflict, only to fail. With a single-minded determination, Malgam will settle for nothing less than the death of Aric.
Throughout this issue, Venditti lays seeds for the upcoming summer event (the last page gives an indication of just how high the stake will be), as well as a new perspective on Shanhara. It is suggested that Malgam’s armor is responsible for his unstable state. Malgam himself claims that Aric will never understand the true might of his weapon until “you spend a life fighting against it.” Then when Aric is nearly beaten, Shanhara takes matters into its own hands by acting in a new, somewhat sinister manner. These hints of a darker side to Shanhara are intriguing, and I am quite interested to see how Venditti explores them further.
There is one false note this issue, when back at the Visigoth camp, Aric and Saana marvel at a newly installed faucet of running water. After everything which Aric has witnessed at this point, it seems a little odd that he would be so flabbergasted by this sight. Impressed yes, but not in the boyish way he is depicted. Saana makes a little a more sense but only if we assume that the Vine never had Visigoths use anything as sophisticated as a hose during all the time they were held in servitude.
Still, over all this was a good issue.