During the height of the comics boom in the early 1990s, numerous publishers were born, flourished, and died shortly thereafter. Some managed to withstand the comic recession of the late ‘90s, but many others fell into oblivion. During this time, one of the more popular and remarkable publishers to come into being was Valiant, which sported an all-star case of talent and some new and ingenious storylines that got it critical acclaim. X-O Manowar is one such creation that garnered attention and has been given a rebirth as a graphic novel.
The plot is quite apropos in light of one insurance company’s recent campaign utilizing a “caveman” to represent the ease of switching to their insurance. In X-O Manowar, they don’t quite go back to the Neanderthals, stopping instead at the doors of Rome. Aric of Dacia, a Visigoth or “barbarian” during ancient Roman times, finds himself captured by an alien bug race. He manages to survive and fend them off while also attaining an armor suit that grants him even more power than his own mortal strength. With the suit, he escapes the alien spaceship and returns to earth, only to discover that he has been gone some 1600 years. The world has changed, to say the least.
But settling into the contemporary world is the least of his worries. Every time he begins to relax, the alien horde shows up at his door to attack and often kill those around him. The aliens have taken on the guise of humans and run one of the world’s largest multinational companies. Their resources are endless and, unlike Aric, they know and understand the suit. Aric becomes a quick learner and before long defeats the aliens, but now he has to deal with what to do as a chronologically-displaced barbarian with almost-indestructible armor and now being CEO of a multinational corporation.
It’s certainly not the most original or impactful storyline every written, but it does have an enjoyable quality to it that superhero fans will certainly enjoy. This edition includes the first six issues as well as the special “0” issue, in which readers learn exactly how Aric is kidnapped by the aliens in the first place. Another smaller story and script pages round out the extras.
Overall, the art matches up to much of Valiant’s other comics in terms of body constructs and color schemes. It’s certainly action-packed, with fights and battles happening several times throughout each comic. Most interesting is the fact that readers build an almost intimate relationship with Aric since readers are given access to his thoughts while everyone else around him cannot communicate with him because of the language barrier.
X-O Manowar is a fun, pulpy series that fans of the comic boom will certainly feel nostalgic about when reading. Newcomers to the series or comics in genre will still find it enjoyable - so long as they are not expecting a mind-altering experience.