Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Volume 4: X-O Manowar Issue #2

Volume 4: X-O Manowar Issue #2
Cover B: Kenneth Rocafort

Volume 4: X-O Manowar Issue #2

Published: April 2017
Writer: Matt Kindt
Artist: Tomas Giorello
Colorist: Diego Rodriguez
Letterer: Dave Sharpe
Assistant Editors: Charlotte Greenbaum & Robert Meyers
Editor: Warren Simons

Title: Soldier
Synopsis: Aric blames the X-O Manowar for the life of continual conflict he endured on Earth. Yet he recognizes that he occasionally needs the alien armor. So, pressed into service of the Azure army on planet Gorin, he has forged a portion of it into a ring. Through this link, he can call on a small amount of Shanhara's capabilities as the situation dictates. 

In Issue #2, Aric leads a team into the Cadmium's capitol. His team has two objectives: 1) to destroy the shield generators, which will allow the Azure infantry to storm the city, and 2) destroy the tower which controls the Cadmium spaceships in orbit. His team sneaks into the city, battling the defensive squads that discover them. While his team heads off to destroy the shield generator, he ascends the tower to destroy the control room, and thereby prevent the Cadmium spaceships from raining down firepower on the Azure army.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Ed Greenberg of Collector's Paradise on X-O Manowar

Ed Greenberg holding Nick Bradshaw's B&W artwork
(and wearing a T-shirt showing the cover of Volume 1 X-O Manowar Issue #0).

The Volume 4 X-O Manowar Issue #1 Collector's Paradise Variant includes a testimonial from shop owner Ed Greenberg. He discovered X-O Manowar, and Valiant Comics, back in 1992. After reading the controversial "Death of Superman" storyline from DC Comics, he decided to see what else the comics world had to offer him. In X-O Manowar, he found an appealing hero. 

"He was a Conan-like brute from the ages of the Roman empire, transported to our time and given the ultimate weapon--a sentient suit of armor--with ultimate power and ultimate knowledge of the universe. The character had a raw feeling to him, a feature that was very much missing from the corporate superheroes of the 90s. Since that day, after I hunted down everything related to X-O Manowar that was out, and collected every issue and appearance since, Aric of Dacia has been my favorite comic book character. He continues to be so now. I still collect everything X-O Manowar--from custom-made hardcovers binding the original issues together to original art--and my home office is a shrine to the character."

Superman is a household name, and a hero to many. But each of us are unique, and identify with people differently. Ed Greenberg found the hero he needed in X-O Manowar. His love of X-O Manowar, of Valiant, and comics in general, would prompt him to open his own comic store in 1994. Collector's Paradise has operated continuously since then in Canoga Park, California, and recently opened a second store in nearby old town Pasadena.

Here's the finished version of Nick Bradshaw's artwork, colored by Andrew Dalhouse, and unobscured by the excellent (but large) logo designed by Tom Muller.


Volume 4 X-O Manowar Issue #1
Collector's Paradise Variant Cover Art
by Nick Bradshaw and Andrew Dalhouse


Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Volume 4 X-Manowar Issue #1 Collector's Paradise Variant Covers

Volume 4 X-O Manowar Issue #1
Collector's Paradise Variant Cover (B&W)

To herald the return of X-O Manowar to comics, with this new volume from Valiant, owner Ed Greenberg of comics store Collector's Paradise commissioned his own cover. The above is the Black & White version, created by penciler Nick Bradshaw, in consultation with editor Warren Simons.

After the Azure army conscripts Aric, they send him into battle without armor or a weapon. First he must ascend a sheer cliff, fighting the Cadmium army all the way. Once he reaches the top, weapons can be scavenged from the fallen, but he must still brave many dangers. Chief among those is a giant genetically modified "Blood Beast." 

Here's the color variant, courtesy of colorist Andrew Dalhouse:

Volume 4 X-O Manowar Issue #1
Collector's Paradise Variant Cover (Color)

Like Cover B, Nick Bradshaw depicts Aric wearing his armor, and fighting the immense Blood Beast with an energy sword. While Aric doesn't wear the armor in Issue #1, he does consult with it twice. (Remember, the armor is sentient, and even has a name: Shanhara). And he does help the Azure army win this battle by single-handedly taking down the monstrous beast. But to find out how that occurs, and all the nuances of the story, you'll have to pick up Issue #1, and read it yourself.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Volume 4: X-O Manowar Issue #1

Volume 4 X-O Manowar Issue #1
Cover B by Kenneth Rocafort

Volume 4 X-O Manowar Issue #1
Published: March 2017

Cover Artist: Kenneth Rocafort*
Writer: Matt Kindt
Artist: Tomas Giorello
Colorist: Diego Rodriguez
Letterer: Dave Sharp
Assistant Editor: Robert Meyers
Editor: Warren Simons

Title: Soldier
Synopsis: Aric of Dacia, the 4th Century Visigoth who was transplanted by aliens in the 21st Century, has left Earth behind. He's relocated to a planet with two suns, and nine days in the week. He's living with Schon, a woman with blue skin and a tail. She works in a tavern, while he looks after her farm. He finds contentment in simple tasks like tilling the soil and repairing her tractor. Sadly, for him, this period of peaceful seclusion will not last. 

Schon's blue-skinned race, the Azure people, have been oppressed for generations. Like her, they are forced to work hard every day of the week. They are forbidden education and other forms of advancement. So one day, an Azure war party conscripts Aric, and forces him to join their war against their oppressors, the Cadmiums. Aric will not be given armor, or even a weapon. He's expected to die like all the other cannon fodder, serving as little more than a living shield for the properly trained soldiers. What the Azure army leaders do not reckon on is Aric's tenacity.

It's an action packed beginning to Matt Kindt's new saga. Even though it's written like most comics these days, with visuals taking most of the narrative burden, the Giorello and Rodriguez's visuals are incredible. A lot happens in this introductory chapter, and one's enjoyment of the issue only increases with later reads.

*As a first issue, X-O Manowar #1 was printed with thirty different covers, not including the second and third printing reprints. My wife and I chose Cover B, although we liked them all.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Volume 4: X-O Manowar FCBD Special


After a triumphant return to comics in 2012 with a 50+ issue run, X-O Manowar took a much needed rest. Thankfully, the fourth Century Visigoth didn't blast a whole in the ground and bury himself for centuries, as he did at the end of Issue 9 of the original series. (Don't worry, he returned in Issue 10!) Aric of Dacia was just weary of his adventures, and needed a few months off. So Valiant gave him a vacation, and he used the break to visit another planet. 

Last year, Aric and his magnificent armor came back with a bang. It was a very different series to its predecessor, and took many long term fans by surprise. But then, change ripples through not only X-O Manowar, but Valiant as well. This week we learned that two key people overseeing the creative vision of the company had left. Valiant is now wholly owned by a multimedia company. How this change in ownership and management impacts Aric's comic book adventures, and whether it hastens or slows the production of a Valiant movie or TV series, fans will have to wait and see.

X-O Manowar has been through a number of changes over the years. After the first 40+ issues of Volume 1, a new creative team took over in the mid 1990s with a "Birthquake" reboot. While the new writers and artists significantly changed the series, the management retained the original series (or Volume 1) numbering. 

When that effort failed to revive public interest, due in part to an imploding comic book market, they rebooted the series more comprehensively. The ownership and management of Valiant had changed greatly since its inception in the early 1990s. The company was now owned by Acclaim, a computer game company. Acclaim brought in new writers and artists, and even deposed Aric, with a new character taking over the X-O Manowar armor. This series, what I call Volume 2, restarted the issues at #1, and had a limited run. 

In 2012, a revamped Valiant arose from the ashes to introduce Aric and X-O Manowar to a contemporary audience. As I said above, that series, what I call Volume 3, lasted over fifty issues. So Matt Kindt's current series, beginning with #1, became the fourth volume of X-O Manowar. It's in stores now, and can be purchased as single issues, trade paperbacks, and as digital copies for e-readers.

This new X-O Manowar series has been compared to Marvel's iconic Planet Hulk series. Writer Matt Kindt has always wanted to write Conan the Barbarian, so he's approaching the series from that mindset. The series demonstrates a curious mixture of ideas, themes, peoples, and artistic styles, as Kindt continually changes the artist he works with for each story arc. But then, the history of X-O Manowar, and Valiant, is one of change. 

Our lives are filled with ups and downs, with triumphs and defeats. Still, we do our best to survive, and enrich the lives of others. In this way, we seek to continually rise above our past, and the detritus that would impede our futures. We move forward each day, our eyes fixed on the road ahead. We take breaks, but we do not give up.

Like Aric of Dacia, we remain Valiant.


Valiant's Free Comic Book Day issue featured a short prequel story for X-O Manowar. 

X-O Manowar 2017 FCBD Special
Published: May 2017
Writer: Matt Kindt
Artist: CAFU
Colorist: Andrew Dalhouse
Letterer: Dave Sharpe
Assistant Editor: Robert Meyers
Editor: Warren Simons

Title: The Three Prayers of X-O Manowar
Synopsis: Seemingly disillusioned with life on Earth, Aric is now living on another planet. Two races, the Azure and the Cadmium, are vying for power. Witnessing an act of oppression, Aric intercedes to shield the victim. After witnessing this act of protection and compassion, a woman named Schon befriends him. Troubled by his past, he confides to her that he fears he cannot mend his ways. She assures him that he can, and that he will find what he feels is lacking in himself.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

X-O Manowar Issue 25

Cover for X-O Manowar Issue 25

X-O Manowar Issue 25
Published: February 1994
Cover Artists: Paris T. Karounos, Tom Ryder, Andrew Covalt
Writer: Jorge Gonzalez
Penciler: Paris T. Karounos
Inker: Tom Ryder
Colorist: Andrew Covalt
Letterer: Ken Lopez
Editor: Mark Moretti

Title: Unit, Corps, God, Country Part 2
Synopsis: Ken, Aric's second-in-command at Orb Industries, is having trouble getting to the bottom of who sanctioned Reece's massacre in South America. So Randy Cartier, his Security Chief, offers to send a few people down to Spectar Enterprises, an Orb subsidiary, to investigate. Aric meets Paul, Randy's friend, who worked with her in the military, and has stood by her in civilian life. When the Armorines attack Aric, he wants to destroy them all. But Paul and Randy convince him the Marines were following orders, and he doesn't want the entire United States Military against him. He lets them go. A week later, Gunnery Sergeant Harold Lewis returns in uniform. He apologizes for the misunderstanding, and promises that those responsible for the attack (presumably Peter Garrett and Ms. Mandrake) have been dealt with.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Armorines Issue 0

Cover for Armorines Issue 0

Armorines Issue 0
Cover Artists: Jim Calafiori, Tom Ryder, Jorge Gonzalez
Published: February 1994
Writer: Jorge Gonzalez
Penciler: Jim Calafiori
Inker: Gonzalo Mayo
Colorist: Eric Lusk
Letterers: Rob Johnson, Joe Albello
Editor: Mark Moretti

Title: Unite, Corps, God, Country Part 1
Synopsis: Colonel Gardner welcomes Gunnery Sergeant Harold Lewis, Lance Corporals Antonio Cordova, and James Earl Williams to the Armorines project, where they meet Dr. Philip Zahn, who won a Nobel prize for a breakthrough in Microelectronics. The armor he's developed gives enhanced strength, uses ion cannons mounted on gauntlets, vision beyond the human spectrum, force fields, ion-charged blades, laser cutters, and flight. They meet Sergeant Sirot of the N.S.A. (the National Security Agency), who survived the attempt to capture Aric's armor in Antarctica. They fly to Camp Pendleton, where they meet another team member, Major Myra Lane. There they receive their training with the armor, and learn to function as a team. We also learn that Peter Garrett, who oversaw the operation in Antarctica, is still maneuvering behind the scenes, as is Ms. Mandrake from the I.R.S. (Internal Revenue Service), who tried to take over Orb Industries when the C.I.A. (Central Intelligence Agency) believed they had captured Aric.