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Born into battle and raised under the oppressive thumb of the Roman Empire, Aric of Dacia is a beloved figure among his men and a leader of the Visigoth people. But when he's taken prisoner after a brutal encounter with an alien strike force, he must capture the X-O Manowar armor – the most powerful weapon in the universe – if he's to save his family and return to his people. But when he arrives he finds 1,600 years have passed and the most primitive man on Earth – a man out of time – now wields a weapon capable of incalculable destruction.
For a few years in the 1990s, Valiant Entertainment stood toe to toe with the likes of DC and Marvel, competing with the Big Two in both sales and market share. 1993's Publisher of the Year, Valiant almost eclipsed DC's market share before being bought by Acclaim Entertainment in 1994, which eventually shut down the publisher in 2005. After several years of legal wrangling, Valiant's now back with its first new comic book, X-O Manowar.
Just like his parent company, X-O Manowar has had a rocky history. Originally, the character was Aric, a fifth century Visigoth warrior captured by aliens, who eventually procures an advanced suit of alien armor through the guidance of Elvis Presley. After escaping his captors, Aric returns to Earth and discovers that 1600 years had passed. When Acclaim purchased the company in 1994, they changed the origin entirely so that X-O Manowar was now a modern day scientist wielding armor captured from the Nazis during World War II.
This week's X-O Manowar #1 chooses to update the original origin, although it looks like they may be discarding some of the more...ridiculous aspects in favor of a much more sensible plot. In the new series, Aric's still a Visigoth warrior fighting against the Romans. His brash and foolish actions cause him to lose his family and freedom all in one day. Mistaking an alien craft for Roman Legionnaires, Aric soon finds himself in space, where he discovers a suit of armor that seems to reject all alien hosts.
The first issue does a respectable job of fleshing out Aric's character as well as establishing the world that he lives in. In 30 pages, writer Robert Vendetti gives Aric a well-rounded personality and motive. Aric is a brave idiot of a warrior and a likeable protagonist. While his actions make me wonder how he survived as long as he did in war, there's still enough there for readers to relate to. Vendetti also sets up a subplot that hints as to what exactly the aliens were doing on Earth. Another one of the highlights of the issue is Cary Nord's artwork. The Eisner Award winning artist's pencils shine throughout the issue, seamlessly blending Roman warfare and alien spacecrafts in a believable manner. I will say that the dialogue in the issue is a bit stilted, as if Vendetti were channeling a bit too much Prince Valiant or He-Man and the Masters of the Galaxy when writing the issue. However, it's not enough to turn off readers or push them away from a well-crafted first chapter.
Going into the issue, I expected X-O Manowar to be a poorly conceived superhero story, like most attempts to start up a new superhero franchise outside of the Big Two nowadays. Instead, I got an enjoyable, legitimate origin story with quality artwork and enough hooks to keep me reading for at least a few more issues. While X-O Manowar isn't groundbreaking or extraordinary, it's solid and can stand up to many of the other superhero books on the shelves today. If you were a fan of Valiant or are looking for new superheroes to try out, give X-O Manowar a try.
Review by: Christian Hoffer