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X-O Manowar Volume 1 Hardcover – November 12, 2013
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The story: The overall premise of these first 3 volumes is pretty interesting. I really thought that Aric and his journey to wearing the Manowar armor was quite intriguing. He mostly feels like a fish out of water, a stranger in a strange land throughout most of this book. How would you feel if everyone and everything you've ever known has been gone for sixteen centuries?! I really enjoyed seeing Aric's journey from slave to possessing the most powerful weapon in the universe. There's a host of supporting characters, great character development (especially of the Vine priest), and some good action. The plot went to places I didn't expect and I wasn't able to predict how the Planet Death arc would end (which is good). Overall, I liked the story, thought it was good, thought the characters were interesting enough, but it didn't blow me away. I might have to keep reading some more of the Valiantverse.
The art: The covers are pretty neat. I was a little disappointed by the interior art. Some of it was impressive, but I found myself being able to race through this deluxe edition because the art wasn't detailed enough to really need to spend a whole lot of time looking at it. The splash pages and double page spreads are quite impressive, but that's about all. I found most of the art to be a little bland, and not detailed enough. It's not bad art by any means, perhaps it's just not my style.
The book itself: The book is of nice quality. It has a fully glued binding which I'm disappointed in. I was thinking that if Valiant really wants to put their name out there when it comes to collected editions they should go with sewn binding for deluxe editions and omnis (when they finally make them). Thankfully, there's not much gutter loss and I don't think anyone except the most anal comics collectors are going to hate it. The paper quality seems just right for a deluxe edition, very satisfied with that. The book contains a REALLY nice extras section full of 3D pics for concept art for the various characters, pencil sketches, script pages, and variant covers. Valiant really seems to make it count when they put extras in the book. I just wish the interior art looked as good as some of the variant covers in the back! Better art would have made this some of the best comics I've ever read!
Overall, I enjoyed it. Got through it fast though. It's a nice book and would make a fine edition to any comics collector's stash. No sarcasm, you know serious collectors get more than just Marvel and DC. It was cool to dive into the Valiantverse. I'm not in a hurry to get the volume 2 to this book. There's a whole bunch of DC stuff I want to get first. I would recommend this for people who maybe read Valiant in the 90s or who are ready to explore another publisher with an open mind. Overall, I liked it, didn't blow me away.
First of all, these are substantial books. Thick covers, tight binding and an overall elegant appearance. Once you crack them open however, and see the pages you'll realize it was worth every penny spent.
XO Manowar is the type of comic book title that has benefited greatly from having only one consistent writer. Robert Vendetti has captained the ship since the very beginning and the 14 issues contained in this monster showcase the quality of work that he's been producing. And that's not to take anything away from the talented artists that have also graced the pages here. Although I hope it goes without saying that the larger size format only improves the visual effect.
Now, combine all of that with about 40 pages of extras and you have a true bargain that any XO or Valiant fan really needs to have on their shelf. I was so damn impressed by the whole package that I've since also bought the Harbinger one and I've preordered Archer and Armstrong. Do yourself a favor and get yours.
X-O MANOWAR DELUXE EDITION VOLUME 1 collects issues #1-14 that make up the first three volumes.
X-O Manowar: By The Sword (Issues 1 - 4)
X-O Manowar Volume 2: Enter Ninjak TP (Issues 5 - 8)
X-O Manowar Volume 3: Planet Death TP (Issues 9 - 14)
(As to each link having far more detail on the subjects, I will not go into as much information. So please click on each link for further knowledge.)
Aric of Dacia is a Visigoth warrior located near in Pollentia, 402 A.D. The Visigoth are at war with the Roman Empire, and in the heat of battle, Aric fights certain Roman soldiers who he discovers that they are aliens named the Vine. The aliens overpower the Visigoths, and load them onto their ship to be used as slaves on their colony in deep space. There they find the mysterious Manowar armor, a sentient being with incredible powers, grafts itself to a host of its choosing, which hasn't worked out so well for the Vine for a long time. Remaining captured for numerous years, Aric finally launches a revolt out of prison and by some weird chance, is deemed worthy to the Manowar armor. He easily breaks out of the colony and returns to Earth where he finds out it is now the 21st century. Misplaced from his own time period and coming to terms with reality, Aric must deal with a new and hostile world who wants his armor...and he wants his revenge.
Vendetti makes one heck an action-packed series that moves at a brisk pace while having some time inbetween for character development. Aric is this warrior who loves to fight and yet is shell-shocked by everything he's lost, making for a character you can root for and understand. His supporting cast of Ninjak (another Valiant character re-introduced) makes another cool character that you too instantly like. A badass ninja with incredible fighting skills and technology. How much more do you want? And traitor to the Vine, Alexander, just wants to live like a human being away from his boring and stagnate alien race. So all three characters makes an interesting group that makes sense and has its share of funny moments.
The Vine also have numerous backgrounds which make them too a bit morally grey. Some of the Vine are the typical alien beings who want complete control over everything and some do want lifeforms to have a good life. It makes it so the Vine aren't all bad guys and further makes for a compelling read.
The art is handled by Cory Nord in volume 1, Lee Garbett does volume 2, and Cary Nord and Trevor Hairsine share duties in volume 3. For the most part, all artist do a well done job in detail and kinetic energy for the action scenes, which are highly enjoyable. And thankfully, the change in art doesn't hurt the narrative.
For extras, beyond the upgraded size of the book for being deluxe, a forward introduction by Vendetti is included with numerous alternative covers, black & white page spreads, and some scripts are thrown in as nice little bonuses.
I really didn't find any problems reading this book, but if I had to say anything in the regard, is this might get boring for those who see it as nothing more then a slugfest. Yes it is a pretty action heavy series, even though Venditti shares some character building moments here and there, some might still feel it's too action oriented. And the other might be the ending to volume 3. It does leave some lingering questions and side-steps some things that might leave you cold. Then again, some answers might get explained down the road.
Either way, X-O MANOWAR DELUXE EDITION VOL.1 is a truly enjoyable read where I can see why numerous people are ga-ga for the Valiant line. Great action, great characters, great art, and all three first volumes under one cover is a deal (all three in paperback cost the exact amount at cover price as the deluxe edition). Though some might be turned off by the heavy action and volume 3's way of rushing to the end of the 14-issue arc, this is still a worthy look for old and new readers who are debating about jumping into the Valiant Universe. Or in this case, strapping on some armor and going full speed ahead.