X-O Manowar: Valiant 25th Anniversary Special #1 Review


X-O Manowar 25th Anniversary Special #1
Writer: Venditti, Robert
Artist: CAFU
Cover Artist: Nord, Cary
Published by Valiant

When I picked up the Valiant Universe Handbook a few weeks ago, it was the first I had read anything by Valiant for a long time. As I stated then, I am happy that I did so. Valiant is putting out some quality comics. Ninjak, Bloodshot and Unity all have great creative teams behind them, and the company as a whole looks poised to expand with new titles. Their summer crossover event, Book of Death, begins next month.

It was with these thoughts in mind that I picked up X-O Manowar: Valiant 25th Anniversary Special #1 (say that three times fast!) the other day. I have not been following the main X-O Manowar title and thought this anniversary special might be a good starting point for me.

"The noble Visigoth warrior Aric of Darcia was kidnapped by the alien race known as the Vine and thrust into slavery. He rebelled and captured the sentient power suit Shanhara, worshiped as a deity by the Vine, and returned to Earth – only to discover centuries had passed and the world he knew was gone. Bonded to Shanhara, Aric had lost his home but found a new purpose as the protector of Earth…"

I appreciated the prologue that Valiant stuck into the comic. While I have a vague understanding of the X-O Manowar character, the fact that Valiant and the team behind the comic basically start the reader off from scratch, feeding us the character’s history in manageable bites, is a welcome gesture. One of the reasons I had not gotten close to Valiant’s characters over the years was that there did not seem to be a good point to jump in. I think the company may have recognized this characteristic in their titles. Across their whole line an effort has been made to make the titles accessible.

As a standalone story, this anniversary special works well enough. The armor X-O Manowar wears has a history that

stretches back thousands of years. The spark of sentience that helps power and control the suit is just as old, coming from a gentle soul not totally sold on her fate as a suit of armor. Robert Venditti and his artist, CAFU, manage to fill out a 22-page comic with this premise, and yes, it does feel like a bit of fluff. Looking through its pages now, I can see how they could have doubled the density of the story by simply condensing CAFU’s panels, doubling the layout space. His skills are evident and his art consistent, but it is clear they could have fit more into this comic.

Venditti’s story about the origins of the armor is a humbling blend of loss and twisted destiny. For me, I enjoyed the fact that he gave texture to X-O Manowar’s longtime foes, the Vine. We see them as victims of fate in this comic, complicated characters, where in the Valiant universe they are more commonly portrayed as stereotypical thugs.

I was looking to broaden the scope of my Valiant reading when I picked up this comic. Their titles have been catching my attention this year and I wanted to dig a little deeper into what they are doing now as well as get a better conception of their history. This anniversary issue of X-O Manowar fit the bill despite its lightness. The artists did a good job, and I have a better understanding of the character and the wider Valiant universe.

From the publisher:

"New York Times best-selling writer Robert Venditti (ARMOR HUNTERS, Green Lantern) and red-hot artist CAFU (UNITY) celebrate 25 years of Valiant with an all-new introduction to Valiant’s number one hero – the unstoppable X-O Manowar! The sentient X-O Manowar armor is the most powerful weapon in the universe. But long before the armor fell into the hands of Aric of Dacia, it had a history of its own. Now, for the first time, join us as we uncover the secrets behind one of the most unique artifacts in the history of comics."

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