What’s up everyone! Welcome to Beyond The Panel. Coming at you today with talk about the debut release of X-O Manowar #1! Once more we have Valiant’s flagship book and hero back in brand-new adventure. Like any of the other volumes before, I looked forward to this one for the same reason. That being the fact that there is nothing consistent in the life of Aric of Dacia. He was leader of his people in a small piece of protected lands, then emperor of a planet, back to Earth again with no title of his own aside from X-O Manowar. It was anyone’s guess what would come next for him after that.
As with most Valiant books, the first big question was how accessible this first issue is to new readers. Considering the Bloodshot movie just came out, right now is more important than ever that they are trying to create new entry-points for readers who have never heard of the X-O Manowar before. They need to be able to pick up this issue and have no reason to wonder what came before. Obviously you are going to wonder how he ended up in Harlem, why he isn’t parading around as a big-time hero, or where his other arm went. Though these are small questions in contrast to everything else Aric has experienced up to this point. With that said, was this first issue welcoming to new readers? The answer is yes. This first issue takes us into a new chapter in the life of Aric without forcing you to feel like you are missing something.
Even for someone like me who is familiar with the X-O Manowar, this felt like a fresh start. This didn’t feel like the same Aric we were following in the previous volume. There’s something else that he is trying to get out of this life, and somehow that has brought him to Harlem. Now before I get too ahead of myself, let’s also address some other welcoming parts to this issue which jump out at you. The first hits right as you flip open to that first page. No time was wasted showing readers just what Shanhara, the suit, is capable of. There was a show of power, and emphasis in the relationship he has with this sentient suit.
From there, there had to be something which made this volume special. Something which none others before offered that we could genuinely appreciate. That turned out to be the decision that in this chapter Aric would be closer to the ground. For everything the X-O Manowar has been through, it has been a crime that he has never flown this close to the ground to really interact with regular people. You know, properly integrate with the world around him. I would say that so far this creative team has rectified the lack of, and I do hope that they continue to push further with through what even these new characters have to add.
It was even subtle how they begin introducing this new villain into the book. If there is one thing which always makes you anxious about a new X-O Manowar story, it is how they challenge someone who wears the most powerful weapon in the universe. With this comes the expectation that the enemy is someone/something which can match him in strength, or put Aric through obstacles which are not so easily overcome through sheer power and force.
What also stood out to me was the artwork for this volume. The art team of Emilio Laiso and Ruth Redmond were impressive for a book which is not worth investing in without strong interior work. Off the bat what caught my eye was how Laiso makes these characters more expressive. Most times we are used to most characters being stern or stiff. Mostly because of the military or serious setting of the story. Laiso on the other hand was given more room to get loose with these characters for a taste of personality that you could read with your eyes.
As usual it also takes a creative mind to have your own distinct way of summoning the armor around Aric. Every new art team always treats us to the visual of this armor coming together uniquely. This wasn’t the most intricate version, but all the same cool because there is never one way to do it as we see every time Aric puts the armor on in just this issue. Now when it came to the colors, this was also very important for the fact that X-OManowar is an action book at the core. That means you want colors with are exciting, explosive, not to mention radiant. The colors were all of that and more as well when this at the same time was a book where the colors were tame in order to make it easier for us to ease into the more grounded scenes. From there, the lettering kept things very engaging. Its one thing for Shanhara to be sentient, but it is another thing to be given a voice which is visually hard to ignore. The boxes are big, the font is bold, and the color scheme is more than enough to make Shanhara’s voice stand out on top of the artwork.
By the end of X-O Manowar #1, I am confident in saying that this is still a must-read book from Valiant. There’s a refreshing change of direction to this series, a new cast of characters, and new enemies too. Overall, there was a bit of something for everyone who has interest in a hero like this.