X-O Manowar #0 (Comics Review)

Valiant’s X-O Manowar series wasn’t on my radar until the publisher launched its Unity team-book last year. I’d seen some stuff here and there and heard that it was a great title, but I never really got the chance to pick up an issue and read it, not until recently at any rate, when I read X-O Manowar #23, some months back. It was a fun issue I’d say, and the subsequent couple issues I read were similarly good at the least, though I kind of fell off the whole thing unfortunately. But Aric of Dacia still remains a favourite character to read about, that I can say for sure.

With the end of the Armor Hunters crossover event, the publisher’s line-up is going to go through some changes, and all the existing titles are presumably all going to forge ahead with new arcs. Interestingly enough, writer Robert Venditti is using this… grace period to tell Aric’s origins as a Visigoth warrior in the 4th century AD, and I have to say that he crafts a really intriguing tale of a reluctant and young warrior who wants to be something that his father wants him to and his tribe needs him to. This is one of Robert’s best issues I’ve read to date, and the art by Clay and Seth Mann and Romulo Fajardo is just excellent here.

Robert Venditti’s latest on X-O Manowar takes us back to 391 AD when Aric of Dacia was still a young, untested Visigoth warrior in his uncle’s tribe. It is a rather moving tale of how a squeamish man who once felt distaste at the thought of killing other men goes on to become one of the greatest warriors of his tribe. I found it to be a rather moving story, allowing me to see past the armour and into the man within. Sure, a lot of the stuff in Unity and even in the recent Armor Hunters mini-series has done much to explore Aric as a character, but I think that this zero issue really captures who he is, and how he came to be that person, that warrior.

This is most definitely a period comic, set in the year that is, and featuring a Roman legion as the enemy. Robert doesn’t go into the details of the time however, he focuses on Aric’s tribe and his place in it, and I thought that was a good approach, since otherwise the issue would have been twice as long for no apparent reason other than adding in a whole lot of unnecessary fluff that the issue really didn’t need.

The dialogue was the best part of the comic, undoubtedly. There is a gradual speed of development for Aric and his dialogue does well to reflect that. He is young and uncertain at first, but he grows into someone sure of himself and his place in the world, someone who has found his calling after all. The transformation is natural and quite amazing as well, with the catalyst that Robert provides.

By the end of the issue, you really do get a sense that Aric can well become a leader in his own right, and in the final pages he has some great back-and-forth with his lover Saana about the role of a warrior and the burden that he or she bears as a result of their role in the world. It is a most touching scene, and I liked how Robert set it up, without any heavy-handedness or some kind of cliche or anything.

Simplistic and natural, much as Aric himself, though he is quite a complex character and this issue does capture that side of him in a great way.

Clay Mann is the artist here with Seth Mann on the inks, Romulo Fajardo on the colours and Dave Sharpe on the letters. The cover(s) is(are) by Jelena Kevic-Djurojevic, Clay Mann, Jeff Lemire, Bryan Hitch and Dave Johnson. The art here is pretty good actually, with the pencilwork capturing the appropriate body-language for all the characters, and with some great detailed faces that I love to see in my comics. How well a writer draws a character’s expressions and general body language tells you a lot about the rest of the internal art, and these artists are all certainly at the top of their game, especially Romulo who did an A-plus job with the colours.

Next up is the start of a new arc, Armorines, and I’m excited to see what happens there and whether Aric’s ruminations of his old days and the friends he lost have any significant on it.

Rating: 9.5/10

More X-O Manowar: #23.

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