“You do my will, Armor. You work for me. I do not have need of you. But war is in the air. Unfortunately, there may yet be use for you.”
X-O Manowar is one of the most important comics of the 21st century so far. The titular hero always bore a striking resemblance to warriors like He-Man and Iron Man, but managed to stay the flagship character for small publisher Valiant Comics. In 2012, Valiant was resurrected with it’s returning title X-O Manowar written by Roberto Venditti. With Marvel and DC undergoing massive overhauls, X-O was a standout as an independent title seeking to tell an epic superhero story. Thanks to a slurry of great artists, great writing, and future accompanying titles like Ninjak and Shadowman Valiant rode X-O’s coat-tails to become a successful publisher once again.
After 50 issues Venditti moved on, leading to Valiant’s other wunderkind Matt Kindt’s X-O Manowar #1. While the art and setting resemble the great series that preceded it, Kindt’s X-O has completely forgotten the character development he so carefully underwent. Gone are the people he protected, the woman he loved and the land he cherished. In their place we have yet another alien landscape occupied by a grizzled war veteran with a mysterious suit of armor.
A war march begins. The beginning of X-O Manowar #1 takes place in a familiar setting: an alien landscape occupied by mysterious equipment and a marching army. Aric of Dacia was once kidnapped from planet Earth and forced into slavery in one such setting. Matt Kindt starts his run by revisiting the beginning of the previous. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t demand enough attention for what should be an explosive debut.
There’s little to be found in terms of the apparently hefty amount of backstory needed to explain Aric’s new settings. He marches to war at what seems to be the beat of his own drum, but we find him fighting someone else’s fight without much convincing. Where is the proud and boisterous King who once conquered a small part of the United States? Now he’s more of a “Captain Kirk”, complete with the cliched awkward sexual encounter with a humanoid alien. There’s some decent humor and convincing action, but this Manowar bares almost no resemblance to the one we came to know and love, acting as a disconnect and detriment for this new iteration.
If Robert Venditti was Valiant’s Writer-“King” until his recent departure, than Matt Kindt was undoubtedly the heir to the throne. Having written numerous titles for the publisher he made for a clear, if unexciting, successor. Mostly known for his cosmic-oriented and meta-narrative stories, it was an interesting revelation to find his name attached to this title. Unfortunately, he doesn’t quite produce the unique touch one might have expected. The story is fairly straightforward; the setting some typical exotic location teeming with alien life. It’s missing what Kindt excels at: the weird.
Aric’s world has clearly changed, but just how that change came about is imperceptible to us. By removing Aric so far from his previous position, Kindt’s work does more to alienate the reader rather than creating new obstacles or challenges for his hero. We’d already seen the hero go through great loss, battles, and torment. While no superhero is without conflict, Aric of Dacia deserved some rest. Considering his current brash attitude and the lack of his own “warrior code”, this Aric is already fighting an uphill battle to garner any sympathy or empathy from the reader.
The story may be lacking, but the art by newcomer Tomas Giorello is already a notable standout in the pantheon of great artists that have worked on X-O. His work resembles past artist Cary Nord, who remains the most polarizing of the artists to depict the character. A classic pencil approach with pastel, faded colors give a tapestry impression to the panels. If the story is attempting to show a legend in the making than it should resemble Chinese Scrolls, Greek Pottery, and elaborate Renaissance paintings. Thanks to the combined talents of Giorello and colorist, Diego Rodriguez, a lackluster story becomes more engaging with careful line-work and a classical touch.
X-O Manowar #1 had a lot to live up to. The previous iteration of the title managed to save publisher Valiant Comics, and spawned an entire universe behind it. While it does feature some beautiful art, this “reboot” doesn’t pack the same punch as its predecessor. Writer Matt Kindt has done away with so much of what made Aric of Dacia a compelling character, setting him far and away from the Earthly home to which he had finally been returned. Instead he’s become grizzled and angry, an unfortunately common trait among superheroes. His land and home in the United States was one of the more interesting aspects of this side of the Valiant universe and it’s a shame that dynamic is gone. Though the Manowar armor may be more at home among alien species on exotic alien planets, it’s owner was at his best when he was a King among men on the planet he called home.
- Tomas Giorello’s Captivating Art
- Cliché Setting
- Straightforward Approach
- The Character