by Robert Venditti, Clay Mann
X-O Manowar has remained Valiant’s flagship title since the relaunch of 2012, and with good reason. Yet, through all his battles, we have yet to learn much about Aric’s past before he donned the armor – that is, until this issue.
X-O Manowar’s story opens in Thrace with Aric and his friend Gafti delivering killing blows to injured Roman soldiers after a battle in Thrace. We learn that Aric and Gafti are among the oldest boys in the tribe to not have been asked to join the Visigoth armies in battle, instead just used to kill the wounded.
In a great scene between Rolf and Inga, Aric’s parent, we learn the reason why Aric and Gafti have not yet joined the army, and why they now must – Aric’s uncle Alaric has become general and is in line to become the next Visigoth king. Aric overhears the news and runs away scared, hiding under a wagon. As Aric finally goes into battle, he learns what it is to experience death first hand. When a fellow Visigoth is decapitated before his very eyes, and with the threat of his best friend Gafti’s death, we get the first glimpse of the person we know Aric to be today.
If you’ve been following Aric’s story from the beginning, you will absolutely love what Robert Venditti has done in this issue. We all know Aric as a tough, gun-ho fighter, but it was great to see that he was not always that way. Seeing Aric be afraid to make a kill and hiding from the world at the thought of going to war is in direct juxtaposition to the character we know and love and it was perfectly done. There is so much character development within these pages that even new readers should be able to pick this book up and enjoy.
You may be wondering about the dialogue, and I can say you will not be disappointed. As an example, here are some lines from the last page which sum up the beauty of this book and Aric’s progression quite nicely:
Victorious or no, battle reveals the difference between what a warrior believes he is, and what he truly is. That is a truth I will shoulder alone.
X-O Manowar #0 serves as the introductory issue for new Valiant exclusive artist Clay Mann, and what a debut it is. Clay Mann’s art is clean, crisp, and absolutely stunning. There is not a single panel in this book that isn’t full of intricate detail, making this one of the most visually polished books Valiant has published. Most of the book takes place in the past, and Mann does a great job with the period pieces, and illustrating the large scale battles between the Visigoths and Romans. I was overjoyed to see his take on Aric and the X-O armor in the modern day with some very dynamic panels and beautiful scenes, showing that Mann can really do anything. I cannot wait to see his work on Ninjak. Rounding art the color team is Romulo Fajardo who continues to do solid work for Valiant.
Whether you’re a fan of this book or just looking for a jumping on point, X-O Manowar #0 is a perfectly crafted story with beautiful art that everyone will love. This is an origin story worthy of Valiant’s flagship title.