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Kickin’ It Old School: X-O Manowar #1

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It’s Tuesday, which means it’s time for another new edition of Kickin’ It Old School, our weekly column in which we look to the past and review books from the original Valiant universe! This week, I’ll be discussing X-O Manowar #1

X-O Manowar #1

Published in February 1992
Written by Jim Shooter & Steve Englehart
Layouts by Barry Windsor-Smith
Finished Art by Bob Layton with John Holdredge
Colored by Jorge Gonzalez

Synopsis

As this issue is titled, Aric has already jumped “Into the Fire”, as we see him fighting the spider aliens in their spaceship. He has a map on his hand that he expects to lead him to armor that will allow him to get his vengeance and kill all of the spider aliens. When he finds the armor, he doesn’t understand how it will help him, but he follows the instructions he was given and seizes the ring. The armor engulfs his body and allows him to blow a hole in the space ship and then destroy it from the outside. He finds himself back on earth in Peru, but sheds the armor, deeming it useless as he reverts back to his primitive ways. He wanders until he finds a village, sits among the people and starts eating their food expecting them to run away. To his amazement, they don’t run or attack, but they begin to bring him more food.
Cut to New York, where the human-looking spider aliens are discussing how to get the armor back from Aric. Back in Peru, we see that Aric has been bonding with these people and developing feelings for a woman, Maria. He departs to go to the city, but is summoned back to the village to discover the people sucked dry by the spider aliens and Maria’s head on a pike. He finds a device in her hair that conveys a message from the aliens to leave the ring. He realizes that they fear the ring, which communicates with him, telling him to go North.

Back in Massachusetts, the aliens have the armor and are discussing the problems that Aric is causing while they try to retrieve the ring from him. Back to Aric, and we find him taking down another encampment of spider aliens, but we find out that he is falling into the spider aliens’ trap. He finds another city, is attacked by a spider alien, whom he kills, but he is injured in the fight. A man shows up and helps him, eventually bringing him to New York. The man, Ken, is reluctantly working for the aliens, and at the last moment tells Aric to run. The spider aliens attack, inuring Ken, then causing a massive explosion. They assume Aric is dead, but he is alive, although pinned under rubble. The ring is still calling him North to the armor, but he attempts to call the armor to him. It breaks free of its bonds and goes to Aric, freeing him and allowing him to destroy the spider aliens who are attacking him. He recognizes the voice of the final spider alien as the one on the recording, the one who drank Maria’s blood and left her head for Aric to find. Aric kills the alien by crushing his head in his hands. The comic ends with the humanoid aliens discussing the need to plan how to handle Aric, while Aric seeks to heal Ken and destroy the spider aliens.

Review

I think this has been the best #1 issue thus far.  It helps that we already know the spider aliens and we’ve had a glimpse of what the X-O armor can do in Rai, but this issue is dense and action packed.  More importantly, we are able to get very familiar with Aric in a short amount of time.  We’ve seen him grow in understanding of the armor and society, as we’ve also seen him grow connections to other humans that drive his desire to destroy the spider aliens.  He’s no longer fighting only for himself, but for the people who have been hurt and killed along the way as the aliens seek to recover the armor and the ring that controls it.
Reading this issue almost felt like reading a trade, but in a good way.  There was a lot of story and action portrayed in a very quick manner, but without feeling as though things were being glossed over.

The art was utilized to tell a lot of the story, which was necessary with all that happened in this issue.  Just looking at the credits and seeing that Barry Windsor-Smith was credited for the layouts alone shows the development in storytelling that this comic represents.  We’ve been shifting from the story being progressed by the reader specifically being told everything that’s going on through dialogue or exposition.

Book after book, we’re seeing less reliance on these tedious practices and more utilization of art and expectation of the reader being able to read between the lines.  This book was a great leap forward.

Originally from ValiantCentral.com

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