X-O Manowar is a comics character that was created in 1992 by Jim Shooter, Bob Layton, and Joe Quesada. If you are unfamiliar with those names – they are some of the big Marvel creators in the 1970s and 1980s. I could bore you with details about company properties within and without Marvel Comics and Valiant Entertainment. Somehow, though, I feel that would deflate any excitement over the actual comic book – so let’s just move onward.
X-O Manowar is science fiction – and is a really good fix for someone who is a big science fiction fan. On Free Comic Book Day 2012, I got the preview by Valiant comics that featured X-O Manowar. I was excited, of course, because the cover art looks fantastic. I added it to my pull list at my local comic book store. Well, it took forever for my issues to come in (don’t ask….). In my travels I found a clean copy of X-O Manowar #0 from 1993 for $1. And then one weekend at my comic book store – all of the first four issues of the current run of the title arrived!
I read the 1993 issue and enjoyed it. The cover is a glossy-foil cover by Quesada and Jim Palmiotti and shows X-O Manowar in front of an explosion in space. It looks like early 1990s cover art – but it should catch the eye of any science fiction fan. Space. Lasers. Armor. Finally I read the first issue of the 2012 volume. This is another really awesome cover. I say that because it has such a science fiction feeling to it – and the coloring, which highlights only X-O Manowar – makes the cover really eye-catching, I think.
This newest issue keeps, more or less, to the same overall storyline as presented in the old #0 1993 issue. Aric Dacia is a Visigoth. He, and all the men in his clan, fight the Romans. Generally, the Visigoths get walloped by the Romans. In the 1993 version Aric’s father Rolf dies in single combat as Roman troops have entered his home. In the 2012 version, Rolf is wounded on the battlefield, Aric brings him home, but Rolf dies in his bunk. Either way, the son is enraged and develops an even more acute desire for vengeance.
That night, the Visigoths discover a “Roman transport” and Roman troops. What has happened is the Visigoths mistake aliens for Romans. Led by the emotional and rash Aric, the Visigoths attack the alien ship and are (no surprise here) defeated. The aliens haul the surviving Visigoths onboard and take off into space. From the moment Aric regains consciousness, his thoughts are on escape and vengeance. He’s still a bit muddled about who he is actually fighting – but that does not matter too much to him. Frankly, I prefer the setup in the 2012 version a bit more than the 1993, but both are good science fiction fun. The 1993 issue takes the storyline a bit further in the first issue, but I think the 2012 ends at a good stopping point for the issue.
Now, that is a really choppy data-dump sort of introduction to X-O Manowar. But what I feel readers should take away from my review here is that X-O Manowar fills this little niche in comic books that exists between the superhero and the soap opera drama in comic books. There are not too many true science fiction comics out there. Marvel Comics publishes a group of titles that they refer to as their cosmic titles. These include things like Guardians of the Galaxy, Nova, and Quasar. However, none of these titles are currently running. Some of the trouble with those titles is that they are contained within the overarching Marvel Universe – so a great deal of familiarity with the Marvel Universe makes them more readable, hence more enjoyable. But sometimes, too, superheroes show up within the pages.
I like X-O Manowar because it is also fun – there is a rambunctious Visigoth who is kidnapped by aliens and who bonds with their special power armor – which can only be worn by “the worthy.” Let me cash this out for you a bit further: a barbarian, who is fighting Roman soldiers, is taken into space by aliens and acquires power armor. If you do not like that last phrase I typed there….. I cannot help you. You are not truly a science fiction fanatic. Sure, this might not be literature, but this sure is fun and it makes me happy! Enjoy your sci-fi!