Writer: Dennis “Hopeless” Hallum
Illustrator: Emilio Laiso
Publisher: Valiant Entertainment
WHAT IS IT?
Starting a new era for one of Valiant’s flagship heroes, this series finds a 5th-century barbarian wearing some of the universe’s most advanced technology and struggling to become a hero to the people of 21st century Earth.
It’s like Thor meets Iron Man, with a dash of Hancock.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
Aric of Dacia has been a number of things since he seized the X-O Manowar armor, an intelligent superweapon that goes by the name Shanhara, from his alien captors: conqueror, criminal, emperor, outcast. This series picks up in the wake of an alien invasion he helped stop, and follows his attempts to become a more conventional superhero. Over the course of the first three issues, readers are introduced to Aric’s new circumstances, essentially homeless and building a troubled reputation with the very people he’s attempting to protect. When the very abilities that make him a devastating combatant lead to collateral damage and misunderstandings on an international scale, he finds himself confronting two powerful figures: a billionaire tech genius and a bloodthirsty tyrant.
Can a self-described barbarian become the hero that the modern world needs, or will those closest to Aric pay the price of his failure?
The book’s initial set-up is a departure from previous runs in an interesting way, and new readers will find it easy to get an understanding of the characters involved without worrying about having missed previous volumes.
Hallum’s writing uses characters to drive the story, dialogue, and action always telling you something about the people involved, whether it’s low-orbit combat or conversations between Aric and Shanhara.
The book reinforces its more down-to-earth approach by having Aric get involved in the daily lives of a few everyday people, and giving a warrior with a massive weapon an enemy he can’t just beat up is a clever problem.
Laiso’s art is what holds the book together, remaining consistent throughout while fitting to the tone of everyday life or a super-powered battlefront. There are some very complicated action scenes in the book, and set-pieces that could have looked boring if done wrong, that look amazing.
Character and technology design is important in a book with so many new faces and tech the audience has to believe fits in the world, something that the creative team obviously put work into here.
Lettering is important in an X-O Manowar book, due to how the X-O Manowar armor and its wearer interact. Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou’s goes above and beyond, without making the panels feel crowded.
Colorist Ruth Redmond makes sure that almost every scene pops, nothing looks flat, and lights practically glow on the page.
WHAT DOESN’T WORK?
Those who are more familiar with previous X-O Manowar stories may have trouble with the highly-competent warrior who’s been a leader and diplomat, and learned the painful lessons of charging blindly into complex political situations, having so much trouble dealing with public opinion and massive collateral damage.
The book pits Aric against what looks like real-world conflicts, but moves away from complex international politics about as fast as a 5th-century barbarian might, focusing instead on an incredibly one-dimensional new antagonist.
Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people are killed in attempts to underline the limits of Aric’s abilities and the evil nature of his new antagonist, a casual body count that some readers may find off-putting.
X-O Manowar is about a man in hyper-tech armor, and introducing a billionaire playboy tech genius to the book feels ridiculously on the nose, but Hallum may be inviting this comparison on purpose.
It feels like these first issues are trying to plant seeds for a number of future stories, but at this point, some of them feel very much like cardboard cut-outs: thin & flat.
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
Hallum and Laiso take X-O Manowar into a new era, taking aim at the human inside the suit. The man who can shatter alien armadas and wrestle monsters from out of time must learn how to use that power to solve more complicated situations, and do so against foes who always seem to be a step ahead.
The book tackles the idea that when a hero is attempting to be a champion of the people, and the people he cares about most are in danger, the stakes have never been higher.
This new volume will be a fun, challenging adventure for new and seasoned fans of the franchise alike.
WHAT DO I READ NEXT?
If you like the writing:
Spider-Woman by Dennis “Hopeless” Hallum & Javier Rodriguez, Veronica Fish, and Tigh Walker
The Invincible Iron Man by Matt Fraction & Salvador Larroca
Deathlok by Dwayne McDuffie & Denys Cowan
If you like the art:
Doctor Aphra by Kieron Gillen & Emilio Laiso
Rise of the Black Panther by Ta-Nahisi Coates & Paul Renaud
Nova by Zeb Wells & Paco Medina
ABOUT THE CREATORS
Dennis “Hopeless” Hallum – Writer
Prolific: Hallum is the writer behind break-out Marvel series like Avengers Arena and Spider-Woman, as well as working on many others like Spider-Man: Velocity, All-New X-Men, Cable and X-Force, Cloak and Dagger, and All-New Captain America.
He’s the proud dad of two sons, who he often posts about on social media. One is training to be a ninja.
Moniker: Originally using the pseudonym “Dennis Hopeless” in the industry, he was often simply referred to as “Hopeless” by fans. He has recently announced that he would be using his real name on future works.
Emilio Laiso – Illustrator
New Face: Laiso had a few early credits, but came onto the scene in a big way with his work on projects like Street Fighter x G.I. Joe and Dan Abnett’s run on Hercules. From there he’s moved on to do everything from Hack/Slash one-shots to Spider-Man: Velocity.
Outlander: He’s from Italy. Ciao!
In 2017 Laiso illustrated the comic book adaptation of Rogue One, and since then has handled the art on more than a dozen issues in the Star Wars universe.
Ruth Redmond – Colorist
Outlander: Redmond was born in Ireland, and currently lives in Canada.
She has a degree in animation, and loves to use bright colors in her work.
In 2012 Redmond took part in a 24-hour comic challenge and created Searching for Love.
Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou – Letterer
Otsmane-Elhaou is the editor of PanelxPanel, an Eisner Award-winning digital magazine about comic books and visual storytelling.
New Face: He has been working as a letterer in comics since 2016.
Multitalented: Hassan has a background in film, having worked on a number of projects and starting his own YouTube channel in 2016.
Heather Antos – Editor
Name Recognition: Antos has worked as an editor on a number of incredibly popular books, from Star Wars to Gwenpool, and was one of the women attacked by the then-nascent hate group ComicsGate when working for Marvel. She is now Senior Editor at Valiant Entertainment and Image Comics.
She was the first woman Editor-In-Chief in ESports, holding that position at Unikrn.
Antos has used her platform to act as a mental health advocate, including appearing on a panel about the subject for the San Diego Comic Con.
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