When I opened "X-O Manowar" #1 and saw the timeline and history lesson inside the front cover, a small part of me cringed. That part was the part of me that hated history in school and was thrilled when I realized I would never have to take a history class again. I decided to beat that part into submission and plow forward to see just what the timeline has to do with a book featuring an Iron Man knockoff.
That timeline is smart and clean, providing a nice tidy package that contains all of the background you need to get started on this adventure. Simply put (a little less cleanly and much more succinct than said timeline) there are Visigoths and Romans. The Romans are oppressing the Visigoths. The protagonist of "X-O Manowar" #1 is Aric, a Visigoth determined to make a stand for his people on the battlefield against the Romans.
Robert Venditti delivers a classic underdog struggle against oppressive forces and, just for fun, throws in an alien abduction sequence, which hits Aric and his comrades. Aric is a likeable character, fighting for a code others agree with but no one stands up for, either because they're too smart or too scared. Aric is a leader by example and his example seems to be in the greatest interest of his people. Vendetti's characters are believable and engaging, right down to the comment muttered underbreath as Aric leads a foolhardy charge into battle.
The art on the book from horses to invading hordes and swords to solar travel is meticulously crafted. Cary Nord and Stefano Gaudiano are a formidable force for artistic awesomeness; capable of rendering anything and everything in such a realistic manner that the story begs to be told through the imagery as much as through words. Nord's extremely detailed artwork sells the time period and makes the aliens seem real. The battles are violent and bloody in the fields of northern Italy and the alien spaceship scenes are sterile and cold. Moose Baumann fills the pages with nice atmospheric coloring, including nighttime scenes that actually seem like medieval night lit by only moon and stars.
If we don't learn from history, we are doomed to repeat it. With this latest attempt at "X-O Manowar," I'd say there's a whole lot of learning taking place. This first issue clocks in at almost thirty pages of story, told through dialog and action with minimal reliance on caption boxes of any sort. "X-O Manowar" is a thick comic book that provides a story certain to appeal to fans of everything from alien invasion stories to tales of medieval battles. As relaunches and reintroductions to comic book properties go, "X-O Manowar" is a great start.