Writer: Matt Kindt
Colors: Andrew Dalhouse
Letters: Dave Sharpe
Review by PeteR
The Valiant-X-O Manowar, 2017-FCBD Special contains three stories. The first is an chronicle of X-O Manowar. The second is Secret Weapons and the third story is a Bloodshot tale. For the purposes of this review I am going to focus on the X-O Manowar story.
When Valiant was first launched back in 1992 I owned a comic store. Image Comics, recently founded by a group of former Marvel “hot” artists was all people were talking about. When Jim Shooter announced the creation of Valiant along with Bob Layton the news was greeted with an initially lackluster response. All the oxygen had been sucked out of the conversation by what the original Image gang was going to be publishing. They had Jim Lee, Todd McFarlane, Erik Larson and Rob Liefeld. So you had two companies debuting around the same time. One company was founded by a clique of renegade Marvel artists whose very vocal defiance of Marvel’s work for hire policy was resonating throughout the industry. On the other hand there was this other company founded by a bunch of older Marvel guys who had an editor in chief that had once been referred to by Archie Goodwin as “The Richard Nixon” of comics(1) utilizing artists who were “hot” a decade prior. Image was staring new characters whereas Valiant was starting out using some old Gold Key/Western Publishing characters, Magnus the Robot Fighter and Solar the Man of the Atom.
The comic book industry soon started taking Valiant very seriously. Whereas Image often shipped late, Valiant was consistently on schedule. Where Image had artists who loved to draw lots of one panel pages that contained little to no background behind the characters, Valiant had a house style that was detailed and clean. Valiant knew that good comics combined art and story whereas Image valued art above story. Valiant also knew how to market their books. They made it a point to be featured in Wizard magazine (the go-to magazine about comics at the time). They had trading cards included in the books that could be mailed in for a special zero issue (which guaranteed people would have to buy two copies) . Instead of launching a bunch of different titles simultaneously, they gradually eased new characters into the public view by introducing them in other already established character’s comics.
I’m regaling you with all of this history to display that Valiant, regardless of which era of stories we are discussing was founded on a vision of what professionally crafted comics are meant to look like. Strong writing, strong artwork and consistent editorial support. This is not meant to be a slam on what Image is and has been for over a decade, a place where creators are allowed to try new and innovative ideas not normally embraced by mainstream publishers.
X-O Manowar was one of Valiant’s original titles. Although I am selling it short, the concept is Conan the barbarian in an Iron-Man suit. Again, that description is woefully inadequate but serves to give you a very (very) basic premise.
The X-O story is particularly good. Harvey awards writer Matt Kindt (Justice League of America, Spider-Man, Unity, Ninjak, and Rai), uses one of my favorite troupes where there is a narrator telling a story while the pictures are telling a separate tale and then the two lines converge. Aric of Dacia is stranded on the planet Gorin and in spite of his best intentions becomes embroiled in a battle with the local warlord. The art by Cafu (Carlos Alberto Fernandez Urbano) who previously has done art chores on such titles as Manhunter, Avengers, X-Men and one of my favorites the T.H.U.N.DE.R. Agents.
Why you should buy this book? Well for one thing, it’s FREE at your local comic store on Saturday May 6, 2017. The X-O Manowar, 2017-FCBD Special continues Valiant’s legacy and serves as terrific introduction to readers new to Valiant as well as satisfying the current readers. It is a well-crafted prelude to what promises to be Valiant’s next thrilling chapter.
(1) I Have to Live with this Guy, page 124 by Twomorrows Publishing 2002