X-O Manowar, Vol. 1: By the Sword (COMIC BOOK REVIEW)


I’m on a Valiant kick. And no, don’t worry, I won’t spam your feeds like I did last week with three reviews in a day. But that was fun. Valiant Entertainment is at the top of their game, in seemingly every book of theirs I get my hands on. And with their recent 5-film deal with Sony Pictures, many of their most acclaimed characters will be brought to life on screen. For those who don’t know what their deal is, Valiant is a comic book company that was extremely popular in the 90s, but failed investments took the company south. Recently (as in 2012), Valiant was reborn, and has since accrued a cult following for their mature, gritty universe full of believable superheroes.

‘X-O Manowar’ was one of the more popular original characters in the 90s (and with a name like that, he has to be a 90s kid). It’s no wonder he was one of the first to be brought back to the printed page in 2012, alongside Harbinger and Bloodshot. The story is beyond epic. Volume 1: By the Sword collects issues 1-4. Spoilers from here on out.

We’re thrown right into an ancient battle between the Roman Legion and the Visigoth nomads. Aric of Dacia, a Visigoth warrior, leads an attack that ends in his father’s passing, and the Visigoth army falls back. That night, several Visigoths confuse an alien ship with Roman ingenuity and totally get abducted; Aric included. These aliens, aptly called Vine, use them to farm on their ship, growing vines, fruits, and other harvestable items that the aliens hold sacred. Something else the Vine hold sacred? Shanhara, or the Manowar armor.

The Manowar armor appears to be a living organism of immeasurable power, capable of determining who is worthy of donning its royal shininess. Aric is worthy, odd enough (didn’t see that coming), and he breaks free of the ship to head back to earth, to save his wife from the Romans. But when he gets to earth he fails to realize this is totally not 402 AD anymore. It’s modern-day. He causes a ruckus at the colisseum, potentially kills some soldiers, and is, by the end of Volume 1, considered a terrorist, armed and dangerous.

This book has a whole lot of awesome going on, and does an excellent job of whetting your appetite for the fight in the issues and volumes to follow. It consistently delivers satisfying resolutions to problems, with plenty of action and sci-fi elements to keep you turning page after page. I personally love the idea that a barbarian is flying around in some sort of sentient armor with godlike abilities, akin to Marvel’s Iron Man.

My concern is that he, Aric, is extremely rash, and often just stupid. As I mentioned, he confused a spaceship with Roman weaponry. And he confused modern day Rome (he landed on a military aerial base) with the Roman Empire of his time. Fool me once…

They never do explain the ‘X-O’ part of his name. But wow, this was a cool read. I’m really starting to fall in love with Valiant’s trade paperback catalogue. They’ve seriously got such consistently good storytelling that it pains me I haven’t yet read more. X-O Manowar appears to be no different. And it looks like there’s plenty to look forward to, as it’s an ongoing series.

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7 thoughts on “X-O Manowar, Vol. 1: By the Sword (COMIC BOOK REVIEW)

  1. Keep reading the trades, it’ll eventually explain the “X-O” part!

    If I may, I highly recommend reading the trades in order of release. This way the tie-ins and in references all line up nicely, this is especially true for X-O, Unity, Bloodshot and Harbinger, and to a lesser extent Archer & Armstrong. All of the first 4 titles cross-over back and forth with each other and then culminate in “Armor Hunters” and “The Valiant”. After that, the stories all diverge again, but assume you have prior knowledge from the two aforementioned events. It isn’t essential to do this, but you get so much more out of everything if you do.

    Series like Shadowman and Quantum and Woody are more on the fringes, and Eternal Warrior and Rai take place in other eras and times so they don’t directly relate to any of the events.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Geekritique

      Thanks for the rundown! I definitely plan on reading them in order, generally. Specifically the big stuff. Eternal Warrior I might just read whenever, along with Quantum and Woody and stuff. The big, crossover stuff, main range, etc. I’ll try and read in order. I’ve reviewed the first three volumes of Harbinger, Harbinger Wars, and some of Bloodshot.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. X-O was one of my favorites of the original run… and this new take on him is really good. I’m actually pretty excited about the possibility of an X-O movie with today’s technology. There’s a rich story here that can be part Highlander and part alien space battle!

    Liked by 1 person

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