Juneday is leading the Burnt into battle against the Azurians. Elsewhere, the formerly enslaved Gen-Modified Azurians lay siege to the Cadmium Empire. The Cadmium take the fight to Burnt miners and their machines. All the while, Emperor Aric watches, feeling helpless to stop the chaos that has engulfed this planet. His grip on the empire is loosening.
X-O Manowar reads like a fresh spin on the John Carter mold of us earthlings landing on alien worlds and fixing and/or ruling everything. Aric has landed on this alien world, overthrew its ruler, and tried to fix everything.
Where it differs is in the consequences. Where John Carter can be the champion of the Martians, Aric's rule is severely flawed due to how little he understands the society and culture of the Gorin. As a result, everything is falling apart around him. People still see him as an outsider, and this worsens things.
Consequently, there is an extended allegory on European and American colonialism and imperialism, but I won't digress into that (partially because it is such an easy reading to get from Manowar). It is a clever allegory, though. The main difference is that Aric is far more benevolent and well-intentioned than say—Belgium cutting a bloody swath through the Congo.
There are hints of Game of Thrones in the political intrigue and dower overtones. There are traitors, unruly allies, factions, and a looming sense of doom.
As a result of these things, X-O Manowar really grabbed me with this issue. Aric seems like a genuinely well-meaning interventionist who royally screwed everything up and is having difficulty coming to grips with this disaster. Juneday is a compelling warchief who wants the best for her people. Bruto doesn't seem so much like the villain as much as someone who likely saw this coming from the start.
Then there is the distinctive art of Clayton Crain. This is kind of funny, because I recently revisited Kyle Craig and Christopher Yost's X-Force not too long ago, and I was graced with re-experiencing Crain's art style in that book. He really has a unique and stunning motif. It looks even better in Manowar #9 than it did in those X-Force issues. He makes Gorin sleek, gorgeous, and absorbing. And, whatever contribution Khari Evans made to the comic, it was awesome too.
X-O Manowar #9 provides a compelling read of war and politics. Aric is makes a great impact as a character, Crain's artwork is incredible, and every page left me more and more curious what would happen next. Matt Kindt has a real winner in this series.
I highly recommend this comic. Give it a read.