X-O Manowar #1 (2017)
by Matt Kindt, Tomas Giorello, Diego Rodriguez
Imagine a world torn asunder by seemingly endless war. Two mighty powers locked in a constant struggle to overpower each other by any means necessary, creating a culture where war is the ultimate game and anyone caught in the middle is but a pawn thrust into battle. This is the world that writer, Matt Kindt, introduces us to in X-O Manowar #1.
For those of you unfamiliar with the history of the title, X-O Manowar was Valiant Entertainment’s first ongoing title, introduced in May 2012 with current Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps scribe, Robert Venditti at the helm, and ending in September 2016 at issue 50, the only title from the company to successfully run 50+ issues without a break or relaunch and under the same writer. Robert Venditti updated Aric of Dacia, the titular X-O Manowar, from the brutish barbarian of the character’s 90s iteration to a wise and beloved king of the Visigoth people and the Vine alien race. After escaping an alien slave camp, nearly wiping out a civilization, being hunted by a seemingly unbeatable group of Armor Hunters, and finally defeating a seemingly omniscient and omnipotent race of beings, some fans wondered where Valiant would take Aric of Dacia, only to be informed that the book would end it’s run and Robert Venditti would no longer be on the book. Yet, that final issue teased at what would come next for the character with a short story with little text by the team’s current team, Matt Kindt and Tomas Giorello.
The book opens up on the planet Gorin, clearly establishing the obviously alien but seemingly familiar world as Aric’s new home. Aric has seemingly chosen to leave Earth and his Visigoth people, to live in a new place, away from those he loves and could hurt, opting to live the life of a farmer. Still, despite Aric’s obvious need for peace and tranquility, the planet Gorin is embroiled in a bloody war which appears to have been ongoing for quite some time without a clear winner. The planet’s culture is seemingly engrossed in fueling this war machine, where soldiers are conscripted from wherever they may be found. These factions include the Cadmiums, Gorin’s ruling elite, seemingly analogous to the Roman Empire, the Azure, the working class who want to get their fair share of the planet’s wealth and resources, and finally the Burnt, a war-like race that has tried to stay away from the conflict, but because of their fighting prowess, are constantly thrown into battle for either side of the war. When a group of soldiers come upon Aric, unaware of his connection to the powerful Shanhara armor, they enlist him into their cause and Aric is once again put in the middle of the death and destruction he came to Gorin to escape.
Without going into the specifics of the journey Aric embarks on through the rest of the issue, it should be obvious from the intricacies of the setup of this book that writer Matt Kindt and artist Tomas Giorello have spent a great deal of time creating a world that feels real and lived-in. Much of the credit for this should probably go to the visual presentation of the issue with pencils by Tomas Giorello and colors by Diego Rodriguez. Regular Valiant readers may be familiar with Giorello’s work on last summer’s 4001 A.D.: War Mother, written by Fred Van Lente. Valiant has opted to present this book slightly differently visually than some of its other titles and has opted to use a rendered look with no inks that definitely goes a long way to setting up the atmosphere of this new world, a look which readers may remember from the “The Analog Man” storyline which ran through Bloodshot Reborn in 2016.
Readers familiar with the character’s history should note that this first issue bares no resemblance to what they may be familiar with from the aforementioned previous run. Aric is seemingly older, more jaded, tired, and disillusioned with the world. The Visigoths and the Vine which played a key role throughout much of that run are also gone, as is Saana, Aric’s wife. How much time has passed between runs isn’t readily noticeable and the events that lead Aric to this new planet are not mentioned, but Kindt does convey that whatever may have happened, must have given Aric a serious crisis of faith that he felt the need to escape it all.
Kindt and Giorello have managed to put together an intriguing first issue that will have the reader asking more questions than the book is willing to give answers. Kindt has proving himself as a skilled writer over the past several years, crafting much of the Valiant universe and projecting his vision of these characters in new and often very creative and different ways. X-O Manowar already has the first year of stories scripted and illustrated and is bound to take Aric into some exciting new directions that we haven’t seen before. X-O Manowar has always seemed like it was just one step away from becoming a cosmic title that could tackle new worlds and concepts, and so far, it seems like that is exactly the direction which the creative team is on track to take it. If you haven’t preordered this title, be sure to pick it up when it’s released on March 22, 2017. It certainly promises to be one of Valiant’s breakaway hits of the year.