X-O Manowar Volume One: By the Sword

Valiant Comics

$9.99, color, 112 pgs.

Writer: Robert Venditti

Artists: Cary Nord, Stefano Gaudiano

Collecting X-O Manowar #1-4 (third series, May-Aug 12)


While I enjoyed the first X-O Manowar story from the newly revived Valiant Comics, that enjoyment was overpowered by an unwelcome sense of déjà vu.


The introductory collections from the new Valiant are only $9.99, which I imagine is the result of collecting only four issues instead of the customary six. I have no problem with that, but I mention it simply as consumer information.


And, as it happens, the first four issues of the new X-O Manowar form a complete story, of how a 5th century Visigoth named Aric of Dacia is captured by aliens, steals an enormously powerful weapon called the armor of Shanhara, and escapes to present-day Earth. If any of this sounds familiar, it’s because it’s essentially the same story many of us read in the 1990s X-O Manowar.


There are some differences. The aliens don’t look like giant spiders and are a bit more physically formidable. (They are called “The Vine,” and there are suggestions that they are plant-based.) We get a little more background on Aric than in his last incarnation, in that he is the son of the very real King Alaric, and was kidnapped during the very real Battle of Pollentia in 402 A.D. But, for the most part, I’d read all this before.


Still, Venditti does a very good job of moving the story forward at an exciting clip, and treats the Visigoths in a more historical way than the virtual cavemen they were in the previous incarnation. (For example, the 1990s Aric referred to the armor as “good skin,” even though the Visigoths were quite familiar with “armor,” both its making and use. It made him sound brain-damaged.) And anyone who enjoyed Nord’s muscular, earthy pencils on Dark Horse’s Conan titles – and I count myself among that number – will enjoy his work here, especially the scenes set in the past, at which he excels.


The origin story, while more or less complete, still leaves some mysteries to be explored later. And it sets up the next story, with The Vine determined to reclaim the X-O armor and Aric finding his way in the world 16 centuries after his abduction. But you can enjoy this story pretty much as a standalone – or re-enjoy it, if it seems as familiar to you as it does to me.

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