X-O Manowar #1
X-O Manowar has always been the action-est of action comics. A huge, Conan-inspired war hero -practically a giant muscle with beautiful flowing hair and a ripped shirt- fighting for his world, his honor, and the woman he loves. This is something we have all seen before. However, this arc of X-O Manowar brings something completely different to the table. Matt Kindt, an excellent choice to take up the mantle, weaves a layered tale of a man and a weapon, trying to survive.
We meet Aric at home, peaceful and reminiscing. He has someone to love, a place to be happy, and a new life to begin. For returning readers, this is a new man, not the ruthless warrior we once knew. For new initiates into the XO Universe, Aric reads as a tired fighter seeking refuge from the violence and tragedy he left behind.
Aric of Urth is in fact,f hiding from his past, but it seems he can’t escape violence no matter where he goes. He is enlisted in a war he has no wish to fight, but he quickly (and bloodily) rises to the top of the pack. He works to protect his fellow soldiers and get out of battle, not blindly follow orders from a regime to which he owes no honor or loyalty.
When the fighting goes badly, and it becomes evident that Aric will not be able to avoid the coming war, he calls upon his power once again and summons his bonded weapon, the X-O Manowar Armor he tried to leave behind. Our hero rises to battle once again, to win the war at hand and have a chance to lead the life he desires.
As a disclaimer, I will read any book Matt Kindt ever writes. He brings his unquestionable talent to this book and brings a somewhat flat, violent history into the modern age with emotion and depth of character. The story progresses naturally and has a good flow, leading the reader into conflict without missing a beat. Though writing battle scenes is difficult, especially when the violence lasts almost the entire oversize issue, Kindt rises to the challenge. The interwoven narration and dialogue, focusing on Aric and the battle overall in different capacities, connects the reader to all the levels of the plot at once. Kindt was an excellent choice for this series, and hopefully, his extensive sci-fi experience allows this series to transcend the action genre and brings a hard-hitting storyline to XO-Manowar.
Matt Kindt brings a new level of storytelling to this series, but it would not have the same depth and impact without the accompaniment of the lush, detailed artwork of Tomás Giorello. Giorello brings to the book a style and quality or artwork not often seen in action books, where bloodshed has the greater focus. The art is painterly and beautiful, but dark and bloody when warranted, reminiscent of Mad Max or the Image Comics hit East of West. The panel layouts are modern and innovative. Overlaying smaller panels on sprawling scenes and backgrounds lends to the movement of the story. The art style varies depending on the scenario, ranging from soft landscapes and out-of-focus backgrounds to detailed battle scenes, nuanced facial features, and beautifully designed weaponry and mechanics. The consistency of the art over this oversized issue is what holds the fast-paced storyline intact. Giorello’s art takes the reader from cliffside fighting to underwater battles and dark war rooms without a single break in quality.
X-O Manowar has not been on the new comics radar for a while. He has his fans, but the book was often limited to pre-existing readers. Valiant put a lot of work into bringing this series into the modern age and making a clean jumping-on point for new readers. As someone who has not finished the last series, this was accomplished well, and the new introduction isn’t missing anything. It feels like a new book, but is still true enough to the original character and universe that returning fans won’t be disappointed, either. If you are interested in beautifully written and illustrated battle scenes, a compelling story with a powerful hero, and rad 80’s fantasy vibes, pick up X-O Manowar #1. You won’t be disappointed by this first issue, and I expect the rest of the series to follow suit.