X-O Manowar #1 by Matt Kindt and Tomas Giorello
Art
Plot
Characterization
Summary
X-O MANOWAR #1 is a refreshing reboot that pulls the character far from his classic superhero roots.
100 %
I XOXO Manowar

In a world of increasingly common and meaningless comic revamps, X-O MANOWAR #1 stands out. This comic is a truly significant status quo change to a beloved character. X-O MANOWAR#1 continues the story of Aric, a Roman-era Visigoth who is (get ready) enslaved by aliens, revolts, steals their high-tech suit of armor, time travels to the present, and then becomes a super-hero. Matt Kindt has taken over writing duties, and Tomas Giorello is covering the art for the first issue. The rest of the series will be split among a group of rotating artists. Thanks to detailed artwork and fantastic characterization changes, X-O MANOWAR is compelling and mysterious rather than confusing. Kindt and Giorello are able to show, not tell, readers everything they need to know.

This new series begins with our hero 1) out of his armor, 2) on a distant planet, and 3) semi-retired, working a farm with his new wife. Predictably, he is pulled back into action for one last fight, like a Visigoth Clint Eastwood ala UNFORGIVEN. Instead of protecting a dusty old Western town, Aric is drafted into an alien war on his new planet.  The “skilled warrior, forced from retirement for one last job” story has been done in action movies many times before (ESCAPE FROM LA, COMMANDO, THE PATRIOT, HEAT, GONE IN SIXTY SECONDS, etc.), which is just one of the many factors that makes X-O MANOWAR #1 feel more like a great 80’s action movie than standard superhero fare. Considering the character’s importance to the Valiant superhero universe, and his main shtick being a nesting doll of fish-out-of-water tropes (a Visigoth in America in the future in alien armor), it is shocking that Valiant has made such a substantial overhaul in just the first issue.

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Kindt seamlessly transforms a super-hero story into an action movie style war saga. Despite flashing forward from where the previous series ended, Kindt is able to establish a new norm for Aric. The hero is quickly positioned in his new world without exposition. Kindt trims the fat and avoids falling into the common sci-fi epic writer tendency to needlessly label and describe everything. Here, we are thrown into a completely new world with no explanations given.

X-O MANOWAR #1

Kindt’s dialogue is economical and realistic. There are no grandiose speeches or superhero quips. He is the classic stoic warrior who just wants to be left alone. In a few lines, Kindt perfectly conveys everything you need to know about Aric. It’s great for new readers to be able to get a sense of the character so quickly.

Kindt’s writing stands out in one particularly well-paced battle sequence. The army commander’s step-by-step description of an attack plan the night before is overlayed onto images of the battle itself. This interesting juxtaposition is another fantastic use of a movie trope. The OCEAN’S ELEVEN-esque narrated heist adds to the ingenious pivot of X-O MANOWAR #1 away from the typical super-hero fare. By foregoing typical superhero plots, Kindt can put the hero in more interesting situations like this. Kindt seems to recognize that the character has been around since the early 90s and his superhero antics have been thoroughly explored. The “armored superhero” has also been beaten to death thanks to Marvel’s Cinematic Downey Jr.-verse, and it is refreshing to see a new take on this archetype.

Aric’s new character design and persona are also reminiscent of a classic action movie hero. He has beautiful long flowing locks, a grizzly beard, and is handless. Think Snake Plissken meets Ash from THE EVIL DEAD. Aric looks similar to JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED’s Aquaman (especially when Aric gets a mechanic hook hand in one scene). These design changes are fitting considering that this is a new, even more bad-ass Aric who has shunned his titular armor.

X-O MANOWAR #1

Giorello’s art in this issue is phenomenal. His wide-shots of the landscapes are gorgeously rendered and look like something from an intergalactic National Geographic. His best work in X-O MANOWAR #1 is in the battle scenes. These images are chaotic, gory, and dynamic, without being hard to follow. His larger spreads are meticulously detailed and even his expendable soldiers have unique facial expressions. He is going to be a tough act to follow for the later artists.

READ: Interested in Valiant comics? See our list of Valiant’s best arcs from 2016! 

X-O MANOWAR #1 is great without Aric ever putting on the Manowar armor. I hope that the new direction Kindt has taken the story into does not fall back into the superhero cliche doldrums once the suit resurfaces. X-O MANOWAR #1 is so refreshing because it is able to slide over into a new genre and explore the man beneath the suit. Kindt’s novel spin works because his X-O MANOWAR is more DIE HARD than DR. STRANGE.

X-O MANOWAR #1 will release on March 22nd! 

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