Review - X-O Manowar #1

Valiant Comics is dead. Long live Valiant Comics.

The troubled publisher amassed quite a following in the 90s with its tight storytelling, only to have the entire line canceled. This left some fans in a lurch. When it was announced that Valiant Comics would be returning, ears perked up. When it was further announced that X-O Manowar #1 would be the one to jumpstart the imprint's revival, well, that's kind of a big deal.

X-O Manowar #1 is written by Robert Venditti, penciled by Cary Nord, inked by Stefano Gaudiano and colored by Moose Baumann. There are multiple covers by Esad Ribic, Nord, David Aja and Jelena Kevic-Djurdjevic.

Everyone loves a good war, so X-O Manowar #1 opens up with the Visigoths embroiled in warfare with the Romans in 402 AD. The Visigoths are getting slaughtered by the fine tuned Roman military machine, prompting a hasty retreat that doesn't sit too well with Aric, warrior nephew of the king and all-around motivational speaker.

Even the retreat isn't peaceful, as Aric takes to striking back at the Romans in attempts to catch them off guard. It's the counterattack where Aric encounters weapons that seem too advanced for even the Romans. It turns out that they're actually an alien race of the Vine Colony, who have captured Aric and the survivors of his team. It's here that Aric learns of the Armor of Shanhara and its propensity to kill those not worthy.

It would have been too easy for Venditti to just drop readers in the relaunch with Aric getting the armor in the first issue. Instead, the reader is given something that they can look forward to in the second issue. Aric is more or less the typical warrior hero. He's brash to an extent, but that brashness is balanced out by sheer combat prowess and tactical thinking.

The timeline at the beginning of the issue is very nice and gives you a quick summary of the events to that point. It really helps to set the stage for the issue and gets you in the right mindset. The Visigoths and the Romans are fighting one another with tactics and weapons of the era, which makes Venditti's inclusion of the alien race that much stranger to them.

Nord's art is very effective at conveying the ongoing warfare. There's a great widespread illustration of the two armies facing off and the combat scenes in general do a great job depicting the action. The story moves from day to night to space, accompanied by a similar darkening of inks and colors by Gaudino and Baumann. That is, the daytime scenes feel brighter, while the night and space scenes feel darker.

There's one page where Aric is descending from a rock to attack the Romans where it looks like he's flying as opposed to jumping, which is a little off-putting. You're fairly confident he doesn't have any powers or anything and is just a fierce warrior, but the image looks like a Superman descending image. It's not bad at all...just a little strange within the context of the issue.

It's likely that Aric dons the Armor of Shanhara in the second issue as a means of escaping. Whether or not he uses it to help the Visigoths win the war and change history in the process or uses it for greater (more intergalactic) things is an intriguing question. Here's to hoping readers don't have to wait too long though to see Aric in the armor. X-O Manowar #1 is a great first issue that heralds the return of the Valiant Universe and it's worth checking out.

X-O Manowar #1 is in stores now.