V for Valiant: Episode 002 – X-O Manowar
Welcome back to another edition of V for Valiant with your keyboard hosts Tyler (that’s me) and Alex (the other guy). It seems like you fine folks enjoyed our little type-cast™ from last week so we figured we’d bring you another. If nothing else, we want to be consistent… you know, until we get too famous (or lazy) to keep this up on a regular basis.
Tyler: Welcome back, Alex! This week, let’s talk about Ninjak! No, wait, we did that already… extensively. Instead, let’s discuss the current King of the Valiant Universe, X-O Manowar Mr. Aric of Dacia–and, yes, that’s pronounced Eric for those playing at home; go ask your talking variant for X-O Manowar #1. We all know how I got my start in the Valiant Universe (Thanks Cary) and we all know that Aric is always going to hold a special place in my heart, but what about you Alex? What are your thoughts on the time-displaced Visigoth in sentient alien armor?
Alex: Aric is kind of a raging baby and I adore him for it. There’s this brashness about him that’s reminiscent of Thor prior to his dad laying the humble-smackdown on him. But he’s admirable in that he holds himself to this code of honor and never forgets a slight against him. Venditti did a great job showing him as this arrogant, but effective brute and then stripped him of everything imaginable except for the wrath in his heart. And then, y’know, he gets what’s basically the most powerful weapon in the Universe as a new coat and suddenly gets to channel that rage into… more rage. But it’s a very focused rage!
Tyler: Raging baby?! I don’t get the baby thing at all. Sure, he started out maybe a little… spoiled if you can call it that, but he had battle prowess and was a feared warrior! I agree about Venditti shaping him from the very beginning though. He’s done such a stellar job with this title from the very first word and I’d stand this series up against any from anybody else on the shelves and I bet ol’ Aric takes them down. You’re up to, what, the fourth volume of X-O Manowar now? Or have you read further than that?
Alex: I just meant baby in that he’s stubborn and stuck in his way. Bullheaded, as it were. And it was fun to picture an infant shooting things in the Manowar armor, okay? Although I suppose a refusal to be more open-minded about how the world works is acceptable when you miss 2000 years of progress. Currently, yes I’ve read through the fourth volume, which is issue #18. I know there’s quite a bit still in front of me, so I’m pretty excited to see what threats exist for Aric because, at least at the point I’m at, there doesn’t seem to be many outside threats that he can’t demolish. Really, he’s his own worst enemy at this point, which is entirely the result of Venditti’s great character work and it is tremendously engrossing. You know, having not read X-O‘s original run, I sort of had this preconceived notion about the title starring just another armored hero with an “X” on his chest. But right from page one, issue one; this current run pulled me in. There was so much more depth to it than I expected; the historical setting, the Vine, the sense of loss, etc.
Tyler: Oh man. You have Armor Hunters on the way! That is literally one of the best crossover/events ever. Also, you should check out some of the VH1 X-O Manowar stuff. I just read 1-4 digitally off Comixology and they’re actually pretty great. A bit dated, sure, but it’s 20+ years old so that’s bound to happen. I’m almost done the VH1 Unity stuff as well, which has been great. If only that eBay dick had actually given me what was promised… but that’s a different story. I want to get the VH1 X-O Manowar Omnibus that Valiant released last year. 30+ issues if I remember right. You should check out a few digitally then ultimately get that bad boy. Really cool stuff.
Alex: No one bring up that eBay dick around Tyler, okay? Yeah, I’m beyond anxious to dig into Armor Hunters as I’ve heard literally nothing but great things. How many Big Two crossover/events can you say that about? Firstly, I love referring to the original Valiant run as VH1 because it reminds me of hip adult contemporary music and I am super old. Is that channel still around or is it all like Best/Worst Week ever stuff? Apologies, I digress. Yeah I think I’ll probably go back to a lot of the VH1 stuff I missed the first time around. I am a sucker for an omnibus so it’s a pretty easy sell to me. What’s the main difference between Aric then and his current run? Or is the character pretty similar, just the style of the times is different?
Tyler: Lately? I can say that about none, except this. No other event has been this tight and this good in my recent memory. I think he’s fairly similar as far as time-lost barbarian/warrior goes. The language used and the finer details with the Vine ship and his captivity are changed (and frankly improved) by Venditti, but it’s generally similar. Some more typical 90s feeling things of course and it can get a bit wordy, but overall it’s in the same vein and if you like the VEI stuff I think you’ll like the VH1 stuff. I don’t want to spoil what I know, which isn’t much just yet, but definitely worth checking out. Even the first two or three issues, I’d suggestion checking it out. Get a feel for the original.
Alex: I’ll add it to my list, for sure. There’s obviously a lot to like about the character, beyond just it being really well written. Personally, that first trade really pulled me in with the breadth of The Vine culture. The religion, the science, the government structure, every facet of their culture was addressed so subtlety that the depth of it was extraordinary to reflect on. The time-displaced warrior element, as you mentioned, allows for a lot of fascinating looks at the basest impulses of humanity being predictable. The heavy weight of tragedy, of losing everything that you identify with is just this nice dramatic lens of a character study. The “heavy is the head that wears the crown” feeling of responsibility also adds another dimension. And of course, there’s the suit itself which is infinitely interesting as it certainly asks the question of what near infinite power does to someone like Aric. What is it about Aric that appeals to you the most, would you say?
Tyler: The warrior aspect, for sure but in the same breath he’s not just a one dimensional slash (or shoot, as it were) until something dies and move onto the next thing to kill. He’s tactile and cunning and he does all this while still trying to look out for the best interest of his people. As you said, “Heavy is the head…” and all that. I think it’s just one of those characters that has a little bit of everything and he just continues to be exceedingly interesting. Venditti does such a stellar job with Aric, and the series as whole, it’s hard not to be pulled into the story and the world he’s created.
Alex: Right, he’s a flawed hero really akin to any Greek tragedy and with the same dramatic weight as any Shakespearean lead. Aric wants to do what’s right and he’s deftly skilled in combat, but the latter isn’t always the way to the former. In any case, I personally find this epic struggle of Aric’s, to essentially fight backwards through time and try to re-establish what he believes to be fair and right, extremely compelling, and mainly because it’s a fight that he can’t win. Which in his mind is utterly unacceptable. I’m very excited to see how Venditti continues to shape him and challenge him, but I have no doubt that the nature of the story and the proven quality of it thus far, will continue to have it maintain its flagship status. Although, quick aside: Does anyone in the book, or in the VU, ever actually refer to Aric as “X-O Manowar”? Because I kind of love it if that’s just the title of the book, but no one call him that. He should just say his name is like, some glyph like Prince used to have.
Tyler: Thanks to Martin over at Valiant Central, I can tell you that the issue was X-O Manowar #29 where they addressed this. I knew it happened; it was just a matter of figuring out when. Thankfully he has a better memory than I do, and even provided picture proof. This is the internet, after all. That aside aside, X-O Manowar is certainly a book that needs to be read by everybody and hopefully our rambling will convince some people to pick up the book. But, unfortunately, that’s all the time we have this week on V for Valiant. Thanks for joining me, Alex, and thanks to everybody who will listen with their eyes. Until next time, read some Valiant comics, would ya?