Advance Review: X-O Manowar Unconquered #1

By | February 20, 2023

Necessity is said to be the mother of all invention.  If that’s the case, maybe persistence is mother of all creations, at least when it comes to comic book characters.  How else can you explain the numerous volumes featuring Spider-Woman or (Miss) Captain Marvel?  Now Valiant are also going with the recycle and reuse model with a new volume of one of their mainstay characters, Aric of Dacia AKA X-O Manowar!

The sentient armour, Shanhara, and Aric stand within another heated battle.  In doing so their actions are seen from light years away, by an enemy that not only harbours a long standing hatred of the Visigoth, but a desire to wield the ultimate weapon in the universe.  Now the pair, both exhausted to some point by their recent adventures, must stand together once more, or they shall surely fall separately!

I have been a fan of the bonkers writing of Becky Cloonan and Michael W. Conrad over on Batgirls.  To say this is a change of pace is a massive understatement!  Gone is the humour, gone is the snappy banter and in their place is the terse dialogue of a tired warrior and the subterfuge of a darker enemy laying in wait.  As a restart, this book does just enough for new readers, setting its stall for those that have been around for most if not all of Aric’s 30 years worth of adventures.  Cloonan and Conrad have taken a look at Aric’s past in an effort to create an air of weight to proceeding, though I expected more than the circumstantial impacts on the armour as a contrivance.

The art and colors are provided by the sublime talents of Liam Sharp.  Now, in the past I have mentioned that I am not a huge Sharp fan, thin waists super broad shoulders are one thing whilst the chaos of his Batman Catwoman guest spots rocked an all ready rocking boat, teetering on being capsized.  I have also said that creators need to match with characters to bring out their best work.  It is the latter that is in full effect here as Sharp brings the barbarian back to the fore.  Sharp’s visuals work in every aspect of the book, be it Aric, the aliens or the very shapely vision seeing witch, all of which carry a sense of maturity.  I could’ve done without the Green Lantern / Wonder Woman homage cover though.  The colors are exquisite encompassing a level of darkness throughout the book.  The reds in the first act give way to the cold expanse of space before settling on a metaphoric planet and scheme that reflects Aric.  The letters in the book are equally well produced with every character having their own voice, highlighted through fonts and coloured word balloons.  I would love to give credit to the letterer, however my review copy didn’t come with a credits page.

For those that love X-O, this is a great re-introduction to everyone’s favourite Conan in an Iron Man suit!  Glib comments aside, there is more to this character, some would say characters, than the sum of their collective preconceptions.  Cloonan and Conrad have dialled back the zany and demonstrated their flexibility as a writing duo and Sharp has produced a book that looks dramastically different to anything else on the shelf.

Writing – 5 Stars
Art – 4.5 Stars
Colors – 5 Stars

Overall – 4.5 Stars

Written by; Becky Cloonan & Michael W. Conrad
Art & Colors by; Liam Sharp
Letters by; ????
Published by; Valiant Entertainment LLC

X-O Manowar Unconquered #1 is due in shops March 22nd 2023