REVIEW: X-O Manowar, Vol. 1: By the Sword

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Prior to this volume, I had never read a Valiant comic before. I’ve had no exposure to their characters or their universe (if one even exists). However, if X-O Manowar is any indication, I’ll be a fan of their publications for quite sometime. 

Written by Robert Venditti and pencilled by Cary Nord, this four-issue volume is a fun, quick moving, genre mash up that deserves to be read by a wide audience. Our story opens in 402 A.D. during a war between the Roman Empire and the Visigoths. Our hero, Aric of Dacia, is a brave, capable, and hot-headed heir to the Visigoth throne. Unfortunately for him, he has never known peace and his beloved wife has been captured by the Romans.

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Aric launches a nighttime attack against who he believes to be Roman Legionnaires. As the battle rages, however, it becomes clear that this enemy is not Roman—or human. They are, in fact, members of an alien race known as the Vine that enslaves human to serve as their labor force. Despite a valiant struggle, Aric and his comrades are defeated and taken prisoner. For years they serve as slave laborers aboard a Vine ship, until finally, Aric leads a Spartacus-like rebellion.

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The Vine has a prophecy that says that one blessed warrior will be able to wield the Manowar armor. Every Vine warrior that has attempted to wear it thus far, however, has perished. During his rebellion, Aric becomes the first to successfully wear the Manowar. Armed with his new and mysterious weapon, Aric begins an all out war against the Vine that eventually brings him to present day Earth.

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The plot is far from unique or revolutionary, but it is told with energy and aplomb. There are a few leaps in logic, but on the whole, Venditti tells a compelling narrative that blends action/adventure, science fiction, sword-and-sandals, and superheroes. He is aided in all this by Cary Nord’s superb art. As far as I remember, I’ve never seen Nord’s pencils, but he’s every bit as capable as most of the artists working for the big two. It wouldn’t surprise me if he moves on to a more high profile book after another arc or two. My singular artistic complaint is that the character designs for the Vine are pretty run-of-the-mill.

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If any of the above genres appeal to you, you should give X-O Manowar a shot. Plus, it only costs $10. I got mine for even less than that from instocktrades.com. I can only hope that other titles from Valiant are as enjoyable as this one.

My score: 4/5