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X-O Manowar Volume 1: By The Sword TP
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on December 25, 2012
The Short Version: Under the guidance of a solid creative team and strong editorial direction, X-O Manowar Volume 1: By The Sword emerges as a great story-driven tale propelled by a strong lead character, good writing, and the solid, expressive linework of Cary Nord. If this is an example of the level of quality we can expect from the "new" Valiant Comics, we have great things to look forward to.

The Review: The comic book industry has long been dominated by DC and Marvel, with a multitude of companies appearing over the years to try and challenge the crown of "The Big Two." Some, like Dark Horse and IDW, have carved out their own niche in the industry, Others have come and gone...and a few even then come again. Valiant Comics is one of those companies. Founded in 1989 by former Marvel editor-in-chief Jim Shooter (after he and a group of investors unsuccessfully tried to buy Marvel), Valiant was known for roping a number of young, fiercely creative talents from Marvel and producing a line of comics that were fresh and innovative at the time. Valiant was a titan, selling over 50 million copies and leaving the industry with some "new classics" all its own. Its momentum was lost not creatively but from the business side when the company was sold to a video game company, more interested in producing console games with the characters than comic books.

Flash forward to 2012; after a number of false starts Valiant Comics lives again under a spirited editorial team and a group of solid comic book creators. Their first offering, X-O Manowar: By The Sword, which collects the first four issues of the rebooted title, brings back Aric the "barbarian" who is kidnapped by an alien race, only to escape them wearing a suit of armor that is also the most powerful weapon in the universe. It is an expected choice; the title was among Valiant's most popular (and recognized) when the company first launched, and a superhero in armor attracts more interest than it used to thanks to the Iron Man and Avengers movies. It also turns out to be an excellent choice; the character, as re-conceived by writer Robert Vendetti, Aric is a Visigoth whose village was sacked by Rome and who now seeks revenge upon those who have enslaved and slaughtered his people.

Vendetti writes a brash and impulsive Aric, a man of bold (and sometimes foolish) action whose motives are understandable and whose plight even evokes sympathy in the reader. When the Visigoths are faced with overwhelming opposition in the first issue, the Visigoth leaders call a retreat, but Aric rallies them to a charge that ends in the slaughter of a number of the Visigoth soldiers (including Aric's own father). Later, Aric must make another attempt to engage the Romans, as they were able to get close enough to the Visigoth camp to seize a number of the women and children, including Aric's own wife. Mention is not made of the fact that, had Aric likely not led the earlier charge, the Romans would not have been able to get close enough to kidnap anyone.
As the story continues Aric and a band of his men are captured by an alien race called the Vine, who are shown "seeding" humans with Vine babies (essentially replacing human babies with ones imprinted with human DNA). Events happen quickly from there, as Aric and his fellow captives plot their escape, which results in Aric being bonded with the Manowar armor, which - longtime readers know - is the most powerful weapon in the universe. I will leave the reader to discover the rich story points that lead the reader to the conclusion of the tale.

I've enjoyed the Valiant material in the past, and as much as I love DC (and like a lot of Marvel) I'm always looking for fresh alternatives to those well-known and traveled universes, so I was well-read on what to expect (or at least what the editors and creators at Valiant wanted me to expect) and I found that X-O Manowar fit my expectations perfectly: it is a story-driven comic with solid writing and art that at least matches (and even exceeds) a number of the B-level books being produced at DC and Marvel. Vendetti's style is straightforward; his dialogue is realistic and doesn't ever sink to cliche. These Valiant books are focused on being more "story-driven" than "character-driven" so none of the supporting characters really emerge in three dimensions, such as in the work of Scott Snyder or Jeff Lemire or Ed Brubaker, but Aric is a well-rendered character of driven purpose. Though he is from another time and of another, more violent, attitude, the reader still will enjoy following him and sympathize with his plight.

Supporting the writing is Cary Nord, whose pencils remind me of Aaron Lopresti, are usually detailed with good compositions and well-defined figures - a must when handling action scenes. Unfortunately the inks by Stefano Gaudiano are sketchy at times, which muddies and even clashes with Nord's clean lines. The color work and lettering are of the same excellent quality as can be found at a much larger comic company.

All-in-all, X-O Manowar is a strong reinterpretation of a modern classic and sets a high bar for the Valiant books to come. There is much to admire in Valiant's story-driven approach; X-O Manowar feels like a comic in which the creative team was left alone to do strong work with minimal editorial interference (unlike a number of the DC New 52 books or the Marvel NOW! books), and we all benefit from it. at a $9.99 introductory price point, this is a definite must buy for fans of strong, story-driven superhero comics.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
The first four issues of the first Valiant Universe title to return to publishing are included in this trade paperback. Outstanding art and writing combine to introduce a new generation to one of Valiant's flagship characters, Aric of Dacia, and the alien weapon-armor he'll control 1,600 years after he could have used it to defeat the Romans. Those aliens, the Vine, will stop at nothing to get their armor back --- but the problem is... nothing they have left is as useful as the one thing they lost! Even though this is only Volume 1, Aric goes from nephew, to husband, to slave, to fugitive, to widower, to time-traveler, to possibly the most powerful man alive today... all within this book. This book gives you everything you need to know first in the Valiant Universe. Volume 2 is also fantastic, as well as the other Valiant titles, but those are reviews for another day...
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on December 31, 2012
This is one of the best starts to a revival book I have ever read. Writer Robert Venditti and Artist Cary Nord have brought X-O Manowar into the modern era of comics with an explosive story arc YOU MUST read. It's on the top of my MUST read list each and every month and was thrilled I can get it one collective edition at such a great Price. VEI has hit this one out of the park This company is making the right moves and after reading this collective edition you will also agree. Valiant is BACK!
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on December 31, 2012
Like many other long-time fans of the VALIANT Universe, I've been looking forward to its return for a long time now, and it is fair to say that the revival of the VALIANT Universe - which began with X-O Manowar Volume 3 #1 collected in this volume - did not disappoint.

Venditti, Nord, and the other members of the creative team have successfully recreated the saga of Aric Dacia for the 21st Century, managing to retain the core concept of the story of a 5th Century Visigoth that acquires the most powerful weapon in the universe and presenting it in a fresh and exciting fashion.

"By The Sword" follows Aric on his journey to becoming the most powerful man in the universe, beginning with his capture by the alien Vine in 402 AD, and concluding with his escape from their slave pens using the sacred armor Shanhara in 2012 AD. To the religious members of the Vine, Shanhara is a sacred relic akin to the Holy Grail or King Arthur's Excalibur, and, therefore, the notion of a human successfully donning the armor while their bravest warriors have died in the attempt is a mystery that needs solving, while the military considers Aric a treat.

Aric is a man out of time looking for his place in a world that he no longer recognizes as well as looking for revenge on the aliens who stole his life.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on May 2, 2013
WARNING: There might be more SPOILERS than normal in this review, so read at your own risk, or after you've read the story of course.

X-O Manowar. One of the most beloved characters from the original Valiant also one of the few characters to be around during the Acclaim years and was the launch title for VEI's new universe. Let me preface things here.

I've always like X-O (liked, not loved) the character was always Conan with an alien battlesuit (as originally conceived) in how he was written, and for 70 issues (including the zero and 1/2 issues) in the span of those four and a half years he evolved as a character (until the Birthquake event) and had a steady creative team with newcomers such as Mike Leeke, Tom Ryder, Jim Calafiore and Paris Karounos (who took over after Calafiore left to take over Armorines)to name a few. And while the popularity of the character went from high to low, X-O was and still is one of the most recognizable characters in the Valiant arsenal.

During the shakeup known as Birthquake when Acclaim brought in All-Star creators Ron Marz was brought in as writer while Bart Sears and Andy Smith (studio mates, who shared a spot on identical art style) were brought on for art chores. (Bart was a hot artist back then and had done two very well received issues of X-O starring Turok the Dinosaur Hunter from the old Gold Key comics) However that match did not serve the book well as it started to look like any number of Image comics on the shelves at that time and was full of splash pages and crummy poses. To say the least even though X-O managed to outlast all of it's peers in the line, it went out with a whimper rather than a bang, with co-creator Bob Layton, coming up with a totally whacky story that nothing that had come before actually happened and that the book was starting over from the origin forward with only Aric of Dacia knowing what his future held and with this knowledge he could change the future, truly a horrible ending (and a cheat to the fans) to such a stalwart book.

And that brings us to the release of VEI's new X-O Manowar by the team of Robert Venditti and Cary Nord. Venditti (whose work I'm unfamiliar with) gives us the entire picture from the get go, it is a time when the Visigoths are in battle with Rome over dominance of the region, and the proud Visigoths do not want to give the Romans an inch much less a mile when it comes to battle, and here is where we see Aric's first resolve as a strong leader (but also being hotheaded when it comes to tactics, with a kill'em all approach). Venditti seems to have Aric not be as boorish (more aptly buffoonish) as he was in the original series, however still shows Aric as not anticipating the consequences of his actions. Eventually he is captured by aliens and taken aboard their ship as a slave, they stage a revolt and Aric becomes the new master of the Manowar armor. (I was sad to see he did not have a control ring like the original character) But somehow mentally commands the armor to do his bidding (either I've overlooked it or this has not been explained yet).

Before I move onto explaining my rating (I wanted 3 1/2 stars, but cannot see a way to do that) I want to talk about the other half of the creative duo Cary Nord. I'm really familiar with his work from his early Marvel days to his run on Dark Horses Conan title, Cary has come a long way. (Another not so subtle wink to the original series was Barry Windsor Smith working on Conan and doing some occasional X-O work) To be honest while it is good work, I'm not enthralled by it (as I was with his work on Conan), but I think that is more due to the subdued storyline Venditti is creating than anything.

Out of all four original launch titles from VEI, this is probably the one I'm most disappointed by just because Venditti is taking his time (which isn't a bad thing) to establish things to come for a massive story for the first year, however this works against the book as well since after the first issue Aric's character just stops being what he already has been established as, and honestly I think he's less interesting after he gets the armor, in the original series Aric was learning what the X-O armor was, how to use if effectively and to become its master. Here Aric is already displaying way too much control over something so advanced, things that took him quite a while to do in the original book (the lightning sword...already a sword? This was something the armor created for him in the original series due to his longing for a blade, here he just creates it and that's it) And while the Vine are the next phase of the original spider aliens, these new aliens have been colonizing Earth for centuries. And one to cross his path is one hybrid who thinks his kind are doing the wrong thing, (I got shades of Ken from the original series) and will help Aric do what he must to prevent the Vine from prevailing.

Now as I said some of this is revealed later, it shows how many threads Venditti is laying down, however as a reader, I like the faster paces of Archer and Armstrong and Harbinger, (even Bloodshot, makes the exposition go by so much quicker) which make this book seem so slow to me since he is laying all of this ground work, I believe it will provide a very strong story for issues to come, but after issue 4 we're left with Earth in peril and Aric gearing up for the upcoming battle.

But why after reading it and the next four am I just not excited for X-O's continuing adventures. I'd say probably because there's been more talk than action (while issues #5-8 in Vol. 2, provide more action and introduce a familiar face) it is still more exposition leading up to what's coming instead of exploring what he already have to look at. In the original X-O he had taken on multiple villains, acquired Orb industries was to the lost land and back and went back in time all in the first year. Aric has had his fair share of adventures so far, but not nearly as diverse. Anyway it seems like I'm nitpicking this poor book and I'm not, I'm just disappointed it didn't meet my high expectations for it (and was set by its predecessor). I will comment on Vol. 2 at a later point, I will say that these first four issues show great promise and lay that groundwork for what I hope (based on how long it's taking to get things going) is for a massive payoff and a strong and compelling story, that unfortunately for me, is taking a bit too long to get going.

Bottom line: It's showing great promise and I'm looking forward to the pay off happening down the line (I hope), but right now I can't give it more than a half-hearted recommendation based on these initial four issues with the warning that you better be in it for the long haul since it's going to take away before this thing reaches its initial destination along its (hopefully) long journey.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on January 16, 2013
I can't say enough positive things about X-O Manowar. Wonderfully illustrated and intelligently written. Vendetti's writing is strong, and he crafts a story that is equal parts action, history and science fiction. His characters have depth and their personal histories are revealed to us not all at once but gradually, oftentimes as a flashback that serves to further illuminate actions in the present. Cary Nord's art is beautiful, lending a realism to the book that other comics sometimes lack. For readers looking for something outside the superhero box, I urge you to try X-O. It is not a book of absolute good and evil, or of a superhuman hero with the best intentions. The characters are as much victim to human foibles as we are, and their motivations suspect. Then there is the epicness of the story itself, spanning entire worlds as well as human history. With each issue, this book has deepened its storyline while continuing to create further intrigue. All around enjoyable!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on January 18, 2013
Valiant Entertainment, the company chose X-O Manowar as the first title to bring back. Valiant's first collected volume of the new era is X-O Manowar Vol. 1: By the Sword TPB (112 pgs.), which reprints the first four issues of the series. Written by New York Times best-selling author Robert Venditti (The Surrogates), with visuals by Eisner Award-winning artist Cary Nord (Conan), X-O Manowar Vol. 1 The book chronicles the adventures of warrior Aric of Dacia, who steals a sentient suit of indestructible armor from a brutal race of alien colonizers known as The Vine. With an introductory price of $9.99, this book is a steal!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on January 6, 2013
My review must contain at least twenty words to describe how awesome this product is. Here they are:

Action, Visigoths, aliens, Cary Nord, sentient armor, Gilad, amputation, spaceships, Robert Venditti, battles, Avagis, roman legions, insurrection, onagers, and ENERGY SWORD!

So go buy it!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on January 14, 2013
It's good read. You'll like it a lot. Valiant releases yet another great book. This is probably the most informative review ever.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on January 18, 2013
THIS is everything you need from a comic book! Great story, interesting characters, unpredictable and complimented with excellent art. This TPB collects issue issues 1-4 and is a fantastic introduction into this modern day classic in the making! Buy it and enjoy!
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