Underrated: X-O Manowar: Birth

This is a column that focuses on something or some things from the comic book sphere of influence that may not get the credit and recognition it deserves. Whether that’s a list of comic book movies, ongoing comics, or a set of stories featuring a certain character. The columns may take the form of a bullet pointed list, or a slightly longer thinkpiece – there’s really no formula for this other than whether the things being covered are Underrated in some way. This week: X-O Manowar: Birth

I’ve been a Valiant fan for nearly four years now, and while I have dabbled in the original comics (affectionately known as VH1 among the fanbase), it has primarily been the modern era, comics from 2012 to the present day (known as the VEI era), that has been my reading and collecting focus. But a couple of weeks ago, the owner of my LCS returned from visiting one of his other stores with a hardcover for me because he thought I’d be interested. That hardcover reprinted the first six issues of the original X-O Manowar run from 1992, the #o issue and an original story featuring the origin of one the early issues villains. This collection represents the earliest comics from Valiant I’ve yet read, and although I prefer the 2012 origin for X-O Manowar, I can understand why Valiant was able to hook fans in with the original X-O stories. I’m looking at this book today from the perspective of somebody who has read a lot, or even some, of the modern X-O Manowar comics before ever touching the original VH1 run, and asking whether that person would be interested in looking to the past.

If you’re at all familiar with Aric of Dacia, the X-O Manowar armour and his abduction and subsequent return to Earth then you’ll know the essence of the plot this book. The 2012 origin took a lot from these six or seven comics, and although some details were updated or modified, the the influence the original story still bears upon the modern is easy to see. Aside from Aric’s Hulk-like speech patterns that do, thankfully, begin to diminish as he learns English, the barbarian’s character still shows flashes of the man he will become when the publisher relaunched.

The Vine are replaced with the Spider-Aliens, although aside from the name there is little that distinguishes them from the first few comics in the 2012 run. Where as the Vine become one of the more interesting and complex plot points in the VEI stories, the Spider-Aliens show little of the same qualities at this point (yes, there are signs that there is more to the Vine within the first three issues of the VEI run), but then that really just makes it easier to enjoy the battle carnage as Aric tears his way through the soldiers and corporate representatives of the Spider-Aliens.

Although you can enjoy the book without any prior knowledge, for a Valiant fan of the old or new school (or both) this beautifully presented book is a must read. And most of us will seek the story out if we can, but for those not entrenched in Valiant lore, this standalone story here represents an Underrated gem from comics history.

Join us next week when we look at something else that is, for whatever reason, Underrated.