X-O Manowar Deluxe Edition Book 1 (Valiant)

X-O Manowar Deluxe Edition Cover

Rating:  4.5/5 – A fantastic collection of the first year of X-O Manowar issues.
by ComicSpectrum reviewer Jeff Bouchard.

The Valiant comic universe was relaunched in 2012 with X-O Manowar as the first title to hit the shelves in May of that year.  After having a full year’s worth of issues from the series, Valiant released an oversized hardcover of issues 1-14 from X-O Manowar that contains the story arcs: By the Sword, Enter: Ninjak and Planet Death.  The X-O Manowar Deluxe Edition is a good value at 384 pages long including 40 pages of extras including scripts, characters designs/sketches and variant covers.

X-O Manowar is written by Robert Venditti (who took over the reins of Green Lantern from Geoff Johns and wrote The Surrogates by Top Shelf).  The penciling in the book is handled between Cary Nord (Conan), Lee Garbett (Batgirl, Batman R.I.P.) and Trevor Hairsine (X-Men: Deadly Genesis).  Stefano Gaudiano is the inker, Moos Baumann the colorist (with Brian Reber coloring a couple of issues) with the majority of issues being lettered by Dave Lanphear (Dave Sharpe letters issues 13 and 14).

X-O Manowar is a tale of a Visigoth, Aric of Dacia, who lived around the time of 400 A.D. and was a fearless warrior who was taken from Earth by aliens known as The Vine.  As you see early on, The Vine are not just taking humans, they are also leaving their kind behind and taking the form of humans.  This “seeding” of the planet comes to play later in the series.

Aric is taken prisoner and forced to work on a Vine ship.  During an escape attempt he stumbles across the sacred armor of Shanhara, which the Vine have been trying to bond with their kind for some time to no avail.  Aric is deemed worthy and able to bond with the armor which provides him near limitless power.

The first arc, By the Sword, lays the groundwork for the series and establishes the “fish out of water” environment that Aric is operating in.  Not only is he dealing with the ramifications of bonding with a powerful weapon, he is dealing with the realization that it is no longer 400 A.D. when he arrives back on Earth, much has changed while he has been away.  Nord’s art is detailed but not hyper/over-detailed, it fits the book well and gives ample space for Baumann’s colors.  The Enter: Ninjak arc gives interesting backstory to the Vine and provides some great action sequences between Aric and Ninjak.  I can’t imagine that it will be much longer before Ninjak is put into a title of his own.

I think the book hits its apex with the Planet Death storyline.  Venditti is able to not only provide more backstory to the Vine and the armor of Shanhara but a closer glimpse into the character of Aric and what motivates him.  When something like invincible armor is introduced into a story and plays a main role, it is easy to lose sight of the character underneath and make the story about this unstoppable force of nature but throughout the 14 issues of this book I never felt that way with X-O Manowar’s protagonist.  The armor seems almost secondary to him and even though it has boundless power, he treats it much like a sword he would have wielded in 400 A.D.  Some of the fun with this title will be seeing what the creative team pushes Aric and therefore the armor to do and what struggles and experiences Aric will have along that journey as he learns to use and control its power.   Venditti and company are crafting an interesting tale that culminates with the exceptional Planet Death arc leaving readers wanting more.  Aric has set his course, and I can’t wait to see what happens when he and the armor get there.

Reviewed by: Jeff Bouchard
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