Romans vs Visigoths...vs Space Aliens?! Yes, this is the very high-concept tale presented in X-O Manowar from the rebooted Valiant Comics Universe. Valiant Comics was apparently one of the giants in the comics industry in the 90's amongst the other obvious heavyweights. All I personally remember of Valiant is seeing piles of Ninjak and Bloodshot gathering dust at garage sales and thrift shops. Nevertheless, 2012 sees the return of Valiant Comics, launched at the start of this month following Free Comic Book Day. X-O Manowar is the first of the many returning titles and is probably the most successful of Valiant franchises. It will also be the company's flagship title.
Written by Robert Vendetti and illustrated by Cary Nord, X-O Manowar is the story of Aric of Dacia, a Visigoth born under the rule of the Roman Empire in 4th Century A.D. After witnessing his parents slaughtered at the hands of Roman soldiers, he dedicates his existence to destroying his oppressors. What follows is the various battles waged between the Visigoths and the Romans across the Italian countryside. It features multiple, breathtaking battle scenes, plenty of black humour and Aric's life-changing encounter with a deadly extraterrestrial race and their advanced alien technology. Like taking on the entire Roman army wasn't enough, now the war will be waged between planets!
Venditti, Nord and Valiant in general have all done a fantastic job with this first issue. There are epic action scenes aplently along with an over the top Sci-Fi twist that I did not see coming when I first began reading. It really took me by surprise! Here I was reading and enjoying an almost purely historical, Gladiator style comic-book then out of nowhere, menacing aliens in battle suits appeared and I had to do a double take. Although I could of just figured out what I was in for by looking at the cover for more than two seconds.
Veteran editor and comics writer Venditti has packed everything into this issue and the great thing is, it's just getting started. There are pages and pages of battle scenes and I never found myself getting distracted or bored. Even when the Sci-Fi element is brought into the story, it never gets too cheesy or lame. The only downside is there isn't a whole lot of plot movement yet but it makes you super excited for the next issue which all good comic writing should do.
Nord is also a veteran of the comics industry most notably providing the unique art for Kurt Busiek's run on Conan and he has outdone himself here. Providing the art for an issue almost totally comprised of battle and action scenes wouldn't of been an easy or enjoyable task but he has pulled it off spectacularly. Every page pops with colour, excitement and most importantly action, particularly the double page spread of the massive and approaching Roman army. Things should get even tougher for the artist as the storyline shifts into the depths of Space and I look forward to seeing how he handles the task.
For a comic company I had only negative perceptions of, they've done a hell of a job of persuading me otherwise. By rebooting the Valiant Universe into something cool that publishes comics that people will actually want to buy and become lifelong fans of, they have proved that there is definitely more competition in the industry other than the big guns Marvel and DC and maybe they will rise to their very successful heights of the 1990's.
On a side note, what's with everything 90's coming back this year?! Seriously! Hanson, Eiffel 65, Aqua and the Vengaboys all touring in the same year? That shit should of stayed dead and buried!