As Harbinger Wars 2 besieges the Valiant Universe – and X-O Manowar along with it – Aric of Dacia cannot escape the flames that now threaten his future…or the shadows that cloud his past. Before space… Before the armor… Return to the apex of the Visigoth conquest as a younger, brasher Aric and a sword-wielding grifter set off on a continent-spanning quest for fortune, glory, and power! From the bloodstained sands of the gladiatorial arena to the dunes of the Arabian Desert, meet the man who would become the warrior-king of an alien civilization – and our own world’s most powerful hero – as he sets out to seize his destiny once upon a time in a land of faraway kings and unrepentant conquerors!
In space, no one can hear you think, but still Aric of Dacia is faced with distraction. As he tries to make a decision (presumably in relation to his position in Harbinger Wars 2) the armour takes him on a trip through human history circa 393 AD, with Trevor Hairsine getting to illustrate a battle scene in four different parts of the globe, which becomes an interesting visual device. Personally I’d have loved to see a cameo of the Eternal Warrior in one of those panels, but that’s because I can’t get enough of that character, and is an utterly irrelevant point for this review.
As Aric takes a trip through memory lane, complete with nods to the first few issues of the original X-O Manowar run from Valiant‘s 2012 relaunch, Matt Kindt forgoes a traditional flashback story where the focus remains solely in the flashback, and instead never lets you forget that this is a man remembering his youth and seeking guidance from the past with the help of a sentient armour. But it’s not just his past he is seeking guidance from, as we’re taken to Zambia for a sequence that introduces a somewhat naive new character who will doubtless play a bigger role in the near future.
The remainder of the issue follows a young Aric as he and his companions travel toward Rome to retrieve a hostage in a mission that may not be explicitly sanctioned by anybody but Aric. How this spontaneous decision will impact the present day, and whether Aric will learn from the lessons of the past remains to be seen, but it’s a discovery that readers will be happy to follow along with as the creative team deliver a high quality experience that takes us away from the Harbinger Wars 2 build up with a more introspective look at our hero. It doesn’t hurt that the series is remarkably pretty to look at, and Simon Bowland‘s way of inserting the more mechanically orientated dialogue of the sentient armour is an effective way of reminding you that Aric and Shanhara may be bonded, but they have their own distinct voices.
A comic that is worth reading for new and established fans alike, this is an example of Valiant having so much to offer.
Story: Matt Kindt Art: Trevor Hairsine
Inks: Brian Thies with Stephen Guidino Letterer: Simon Bowland
Story: 8.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 8.7 Recommendation: Buy
Valiant provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review