I’m just going to get it out of the way.
If the series maintains the quality of this first issue, X-O Manowar is going to be on a lot of “best” lists this year. Best single issue. Best relaunch. Best sci-fi comic. It’s simply that good.
Matt Kindt and Tomas Giorello launch the story, more or less, en media res. Aric of Dacia is a humble farmer on an alien planet far removed from Earth. A war is happening on this world, and it’s encroaching on his territory, but it hasn’t reached him yet. Until one day, it does. Aric is conscripted to fight in the war, but like other “draftees” he’s given no weapon, and little armor. They’re living armor for the actual soldiers. Despite that Aric excels, and shows why he’s one of the most formidable characters in comics.
Giorello and color artist Diego Rodriguez are perfect for this story. Aric carries the weight of the world on his shoulders, and each character on the page has a history. The art makes it clear they’re not just extras or supporting cast. They’re all in the middle- or the end- of their own stories. They’re also able to create a wholesale alien world from nothing. Gorin, the world that Aric has made his new home, is familiar enough that you can understand Aric calling it home, but is also completely alien. It has a gas giant and a yellow sun in the sky. The creatures populating it are completely foreign. It’s wonderfully well-designed. And once the issue gets to the massive battle, it’s chaotic, but never cluttered or confusing. You can follow Aric’s through line from beginning to end. I have no doubt they were the perfect choice for this story.
Kindt write this as Valiant’s big space opera, even though it’s confined to one world. The stakes are grand and sweeping, and he never loses sight of that. Meanwhile, Aric remains consistent throughout. He’s a reluctant participant once he’s been drafted, but that doesn’t make him any less formidable or competent. Also, he avoids any cliches as far as the X-O armor goes. Aric still has the armor. It’s still available to him. He just chooses not to use it until it’s absolutely necessary. It’s a great choice, that helps the story continue to carry weight.
The only place this issue loses any points for me, is that X-O has been the Valiant lynchpin since the company’s relaunch. However, this story is entirely divorced from the Valiant universe as a whole. I’m guessing that any connection is yet to come, so it’s a minor quibble to be sure.
In the end, this is the best sort of relaunch, and a great way for Valiant to start the year. I can’t wait for more. This is a book you want to be on the ground floor.