Why Yes, I Did Read X-O Manowar #1

Valiant Comics have spent the past few months quitely positioning themselves inside the internet. While Marvel and DC content themselves with giving me NOTHING TO WRITE ABOUT aside from reviews (can’t you at least cancel a book or two for me, guys?) and Image have their photos-of-creatives promo campaign going on; Valiant have been building up hype for their relaunch and new books. And while some of these ideas have been a little silly – talking comics? – the campaign has undoubtedly worked. Because here I am, writing about their first title, right now. Congratulations to everybody involved in the Valiant Comics marketing push!
X-O Manowar #1 features a cover with a man fighting an alien. Now, while this is a little hint of what happens inside the comic, it is a little bit of a stretch. While there are scenes of people fighting aliens in the first issue, they come from a totally different place to the one you might assume, oh assumers of space lasers. The series is actually set during the Roman conquests, with a small group of pagans valiantly attempting to protect themselves from being overrun and overruled by a bunch of fussy Italians in turtle formation. Among these humans is our hero, a tall blonde guy whose name escapes me just one second let me go see AH yes he’s called Aric. A courageous and overly-proud warrior, Aric demands that his men march straight into the heart of the Roman army and rip out their hearts.
Which, if you know anything about history, you’ll recognise as a huge mistake. Writer Robert Venditti handles this rather well, giving us an interesting lead character who is at the same time not particularly likeable. Aric comes from the He-Man/Conan school of heroes, and while that has a certain appeal for certain fans, I far prefer seeing Venditti lead his lead into trouble and mistakes. The book certainly picks up halfway through, after a necessarily standard opening battle sequence, and the high concepts start to kick in. I won’t spoil what happens, but it’s certainly fun to see Venditti introduce a new genre into proceedings, and use it to wreck the lives of all the main members of the cast.
Cary Nord is the artist for the book, and his art looks recognisable! I’ve only previously seen his work in the X-Men: Secret Invasion miniseries, where the colourist went crazy over the pencils and misted them out. Here, we get a better idea of what’s going on, and while it’s a shame to lose the stylistic quirk of the X-Men period, it’s a relief to see facial expression and character behind the postures. Nord does a good job with slowly introducing weirdness into the plot without it seeming out-of-place and strange. Everything seems to fit together, and that’s high praise for a book with such a high concept.
So not only did I read X-O Manowar, you guys… I really enjoyed it. Good work, Valiant!
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