Friday, July 26, 2013

43. X-O Manowar Vol. 1: By the Sword by Robert Venditti & Cary Nord

Writer:  Robert Venditti

Pencils:  Cary Nord

Inks:  Stefan Gaudiano

First Publication:  2012

Challenge:  Graphic Novel Challenge (#20)

Publisher:  Valiant Entertainment

From Amazon:
 The beginning of the all-new Valiant Universe starts here! Aric of Dacia is a brash warrior and heir to the throne of the Visigoth people. He has lived his life under the heel of the Roman Empire, but now a far more terrible enemy has come to subjugate him. Taken from his home and family, Aric is enslaved aboard a starship belonging to a brutal race of alien colonizers known as The Vine. If he is to have any hope of escaping and returning to Earth, he will have to steal the Vine's most powerful weapon - a sentient suit of indestructible armor - and become X-O Manowar! This volume collects the first four issues of the acclaimed, breakout series by New York Times bestselling author Robert Venditti (The Surrogates, The Homeland Directive) and Eisner Award-winning artist Cary Nord (Conan)!

A Short History of Valiant Comics

Many years ago, I remember being excited by the start of a new comics company that featured a mix of new and old characters.  Valiant Comics was the brain child of legendary creator Jim Shooter.  Shooter was always one of my favorite writers.  He started writing for DC Comics (Superman, Legion of Super-Heroes, and others) at the age of 13.  When he graduated from high school, he retired to focus on college.  At this time he was 18 years old.  Legends grew about what ever happened to Shooter in those days before the internet.  Finally, a writer for a large fanzine tracked him down.  This led to his return to writing for DC.  Later he moved to Marvel and eventually became editor in chief.  Some creators disliked his structured style of management.  Others liked it.  Financially, Marvel rebounded.  Eventually he was shown the door.  Not ready to retire, he found backing for a new company.  Shooter got the rights to publish new comics featuring the old Gold Key characters (Magnus Robot Fighter, Doctor Solar, Turok).  Shooter brought some creators from Marvel and added new ones to form his core group.  Among those were David Michelinie, Barry Windsor Smith, Steve Englehart, Bob Layton, Don Perlin, and many others.  The new characters they added were X-O Manowar, Harbinger, Rai and the Future Force, Bloodshot, Eternal Warrior, Archer and Armstrong and more.  The company was a success but things fell apart behind the scenes.  Shooter was kicked out.  The company continued for a few more years but eventually shut its doors.

Shooter managed to get back the rights to the Gold Key characters and made another effort that was published by Dark Horse.  Although the stories were interesting, they could not find enough of an audience to make it.

Eventually, a new group bought the rights to the non-Gold Key characters and started Valiant Entertainment.  They started publishing in 2012.  I viewed their efforts with trepidation.  I liked Valiant when Shooter was writing many of the books and had my doubts about the new group.  This weekend I started reading the first collections from the new Valiant.

“By the Sword”

This title alone calmed my fears.  The first title to be re-imagined was a hit.  Writer Robert Venditti (who is now writing “Green Lantern” for DC Comics) kept the basic concepts from the original and added his own ideas.  Although we don’t see our hero in the X-O suit in the first chapter, he makes up for it in chapters two through four.  Venditti does an excellent job of keeping Aric in character.  You can easily tell that he is a warrior out of time.  He only wants to return to his family and win freedom from the Roman empire.  Unfortunately for him, he is kidnapped and imprisoned on an alien spaceship.  Fate opens the door for him to get his freedom.  It is an exciting tale that is complete in this collection but Aric’s story will continue in Vol. 2 when he returns to Earth.

The art by Cary Nord and Stefano Gaurdino is very good.  At times it reminds me of a classic painted look.  The whole art team deserves credit for the look of this book.  The art team shows that Valiant is willing to pay the money to get great art.  It is on a par with the best art being published at any company today.

Based on this collection, I will put Valiant near the top of the list of current publishers.  Being a newer company, a reader does not have the massive back log of material to read.  It is definitely worth checking out if you are looking for a new superhero universe to jump in to.

Highly recommended.

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