Back when Valiant first came out, I was oblivious. It wasn’t until after it had gotten hot (right before Unity which was a few months after the universe had begun) and Wizard: The Guide to Comics told me I should be reading it, that I started picking up issues. I started with the complete Unity Saga. Back when Harbinger #1 came out, there was no eBay or milehighcomics.com to find back issues so you were stuck with the five or six comic stores I could drive to and the back issues were expensive.
Fortunately, I was able to jump on the band wagon early and ride it until Jim Shooter got off. After that, Valiant titles seemed to suffer. They weren’t as good as they’d been under his watch. Still I stuck with some of the titles and bailed others.
When I heard Valiant was coming back I was excited and couldn’t wait to order the issues.
I’m giving each title three issues to make me a believer so I’m going to start with the first title out of the gate: X-O Manowar.
X-O Manowar #1-3 by Robert Venditti, Cary Nord, and Stefano Gaudiano
First I have to admit that I can’t remember the original X-O Manowar’s history (because I couldn’t afford the back issues at the time and I haven’t gotten the hardcover reprinting the first few issues) but it doesn’t feel familiar at all.
The story is essentially this:
In issue #1, Aric, a proud, stubborn warrior, and a few of his fellow warriors mistake a group of aliens for Romans and attacks them in the middle of the night. Unfortunately Aric and his friends are defeated, captured, and taken away in the alien spacecraft. The aliens are trying to harness Shanhara (the X-O battlesuit) but each warrior who tries on the armor is killed by it.
In issue #2, after being an alien prisoner for years, he and the rest of the surviving humans attempt to escape and Aric gets a hold of Shanhara and joins with it for the first time.
In issue #3, with all of the escapees dead and Aric about to join them, his desire to return to his home and his wife triggers a teleport. He returns to Rome but in modern times and is greeted by soldiers.
In the first three issues, deadly warrior Aric has had to suffer his father’s death, his wife’s abduction by the Romans, years of captivity by aliens who used him as slave labor, and now – instead of returning to his own time where he could get his wife back or avenge her, he’s lost in time. I can’t wait to see the rage bubble over next month.
Robert Venditti crafts an origin story that gets us involved with the character and lets us see him lose everything in order to set the story up. I love how each issue covers one thing about the origin (#1 intro, #2 gets the armor, #3 escapes to present time) and manages to be engrossing. I don’t remember X-O Manowar ever being this good.
Cary Nord and Stefano Gaudiano’s artwork is amazing and fits the title well. Whether Aric is in battle with the Romans or slaving away on a spaceship with aliens on it, the art always does a great job conveying what is happening on the page.
I like this title and will be looking forward to many trade paperbacks to come. If this is what I can expect from Valiant, I can’t wait to dig into Harbinger.
I will leave you with my favorite line from #1:
Gafti: There are too many of them!
Aric: Patience. I can only kill one at a time.