Writer: Robert Venditti
Artist: Trevor Hairsine
Publisher: Valiant
Reviewer: Rob Patey (aka Optimous Douche – Ain’t It Cool)

I’m biased, I love Valiant. Their pragmatic approach to super-heroics gives the stories real world weight the Big 2 could never achieve at this point without flushing all that has come before.  Because of this adoration, I can use my rapier wits to justify any issue being a great jumping on point, even if my objective side knows there are other issues better suited to new readers.

I say now though without bullshit, pretense, or bias – X-O MANOWAR 9 is a GREAT jumping on point for all of you who have turned deaf ears to the hundreds of reviewers heralding the angelic wings flying Valiant to the top of the indie comic world.

X-O MANOWAR is one of the Valiant titles that changed the least since Valiant 1.0. This isn’t laziness; it’s a testament to a good idea always being a good idea. Barbarian warriors, time travel based on real theories of relativity, subversive aliens manipulating our destiny, and a living piece of armor that thinks as well as destroys is a formula that simply requires little rejigging. There have been a few deck chairs moved around, but this wasn’t a Titanic reshuffling. Every minor change subtly caters to modern sensibilities, preys upon modern fears and necessarily speaks to modern aesthetics. As much as I love the likes of Barry Windsor Smith, his brand of creepy simply won’t get the kids too excited about a comic.

Now, I will say some of these subtle changes were necessary simply because of the loss of certain licenses from the 1.0 days. There are no dalliances with Solar or Turok, like X-O had in his beginning adventures of yore, but quite frankly I don’t miss them.

Aric of Dacia’s bloodlust is stronger, fueled by his abduction by the spider-like aliens, The Vine, and all they took from him – his people , his wife, his time – hell his entire life. The Vine are also changed, they are far more subversive in this new Valiant. Where in that time gone by their plans for taking over the Earth were blatant to reflect our real-world fears of the entire earth blowing up in an exchange of nukes.  This time they reflect our modern fear of terror – that new horrid truth that our enemies are hiding in plain sight in front of us, willing to slit our throats over blowing up our cities. Even the turncoat Vine, Alexander, who befriends Aric is different. Before he was very much an opportunist, a reflection of the 80s desire for wealth and material goods. This new turncoat cares more about his adopted world and its people, and like many ex-pats feels a deeper kinship to his adopted land then where he sends his tax-man tithing.

Prelude to Planet Death will give you all of this insight, plus a somehow miraculous barrage of action amidst the exposition.  When the X-O armor bonded with Aric so many months ago, it sent The Vine into apoplectic fits. The clerics that heralded the divinity of the armor see Aric as a Jesus rather than a simple slave gone uppity. The militants…merely see the greatest threat they have ever faced.  Imagine if Clinton had to deal with Timothy McVeigh being armed with a Hydrogen bomb instead of a van of nitro glyceride. Aric’s escape, finding earth allies like Alexander and Ninjak, and some remember when moments back to the days when the Romans and not aliens were his mortal enemies filled subsequent issues as The Vine figured out an attack plan. Well, the plan is now in place as the Clerics have been sent back to their home world and all of the Vine’s military might is pointed at Aric and earth.

I can’t herald the virtues of Valiant enough.  It’s kicking in the teeth of comic sameness and over engineered clustfuckery plaguing other continuity heavy companies. Unfettered access to a fully realized universe is a beautiful and rare thing in comics these days, please come and keep me company – you won’t be disappointed.