Alternate Ancient History

An article by, Aaron Burton

The Roman Empire was one of the most prolific organizations in written human history. The effects of the five hundred year regime can still be felt to this day. The Romans helped make advancements in mathematics and healthcare. Many of their ideas of architecture and infrastructure are still used. The Roman Empire serves as an example of how to run a large-scale society.

Empires don't last for ever. After years of warring the Roman Empire eventually fell to nomadic invaders in 476 CE. One of the major battles during this time was the sack of Rome in the year 410. This attack was led by Alaric I who was the first king of the Visigoths. Though this was not the end of the Roman Empire, this battle was known as the beginning of the end.

X-O Manowar tells the story of Alaric's nephew Aric of Dacia. This comic book has been around since the early nineties and has gone through many iterations. The character was originally created by Jim Shooter and Steve Englehart with art by Bob Layton and Barry Windsor-Smith and was/is published by Valiant Comics. Recently, he X-O Manowar universe restarted. The first issue of the new series premiered in March of 2017. At the time of this article there are currently four issues of the comic released. This version of the comic is written by Matt Kindt with art by Tomas Giorello. The series seems to pick up where the 2012 iteration ended, but serves as a jumping-in point for new readers.

Though the backstory of the series deals with ancient Rome, X-O Manowar serves as a science fiction epic. The great warrior Aric of Dacia is abducted by aliens and sent to new worlds. During his adventures he is constantly met with the same obstacles found in his life on Earth. The Roman/Visigoth rivalry quickly replaces itself with new sets of clashing societies. War and death seem to follow him, and Aric finds himself fighting against oppressive and destructive leaders.

Aric seems war-weary and done with the warrior lifestyle. He trying to live a peaceful life rid of violence and discord. This doesn't last long as he is forced into battle to be cannon fodder for his oppressors. Little time is wasted before we are thrown into the large scale dramatic battles that X-O Manowar fans know and love.

There are many interesting aspects of Giorello's artwork in the X-O Manowar. For example, a lot of the panels are layered over each other. There are moments where elements in an underlying panel are drawn on top of the overlaying panel. This gives the illusion that the panel is sandwiched in between the back ground and the foreground. Elements in the overlaying panels will spill out onto the the underlying panels. There is also a flashback sequence where the art style completely changes. The flashback is told with a more simple and abstract style. Giorello does a great job of utilizing negative space and creates a dream-like atmosphere for this section of the book.

X-O Manowar delivers an interesting blend of science-fiction and alternate history. Readers get to see what happens when a fifth century Visigoth barbarian is thrust into the realm of science fiction. Though Aric now has enough experience to fill a thousand lives he is still very much affected by his time on Earth. The 2017 iteration of X-O Manowar offers a fresh and engaging take on the classic Valiant character.

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