X-O Manowar #2 (Valiant Comics)
Soldiers rarely know why they’re fighting.
The idea of peasants and serfs dying in a rich man’s war is one we can follow throughout history. Someone wealthy decides they want something and decides that other people are going to die so that he can have it. This is the act of aggression, but part of getting people to die for the cause is convincing those soldiers that they’re in the right. This often involves some for of mythology, some narrative that convinces people that they’re in the right regardless of what the facts are.
One of the many problems that arises from this is that soldiers may be fighting on the wrong side of a conflict, but will then turn around and double down on the lies they’ve been fed – despite whatever evidence might exist to the contrary. Worse, war always has unintended consequences: go to war with an oil-rich nation and depose the leader and throw the entire region into chaos, resulting in a bogeyman that haunts and destabilizes the region. The people you went into free hate you, and the reputation you think you have does not measure up when meeting the people you’ve hurt.
It doesn’t matter, though, not to the rich men that start the war.
And this is where we find Aric of Dacia, now Aric of Urth.
He saved his world and two peoples and vanished; he was tired, he needed to escape, and he’s armed with the most powerful weapon in his universe: a living suit of plant-based armor that gives him the power of a god and possesses it’s own intelligence. He waged war and then found a home for himself, a place to settle down because he knows the truth all soldiers know and all that glorify war run from – war is literal hell, and once you’ve fought in one the war never ever ends.
Aric went across the galaxy to escape it. He left behind his wife, hid the armor, took up farming, but war has found him and is forcing him to fight. He doesn’t know why and doesn’t care. All he wants is to be left alone, but they keep forcing him to fight and he’s better at it than any of the people at his back or the people he’s killing realize. The danger here for Aric isn’t mortality, but discovery. He could win this war single-handedly, but doing so would reveal who he is to people he wants nothing to do with.
The armor Aric wears knows that he can’t escape it, that running from the conflict that others bring to his doorstep will only make things worse. He’s married to war now, married to the violence, and the shape-changing armor he wears has scaled itself down to a wedding ring. The armor knows Aric down to the very core of his soul and has already accepted that which Aric struggles with: the war has found him and he can never go home again.
Matt Kindt is following up Robert Venditti’s legendary run on this title with a violent meditation on conflict and aftermath, on jealousy and ambition and the causes that lie behind every rich man’s war that results in innocent people dying. He’s given Aric a team of people to lead that increases the risk of discovery, and the tragedy of it is that if Aric unleashes himself on his enemies he will lose the refuge he has tried to build.
It’s a tale that demands a talented artist, and Valiant has found one in the form of Tomas Giorello and thrown in the detailed colors of Diego Rodriguez. It remains to be seen if this run on X-O Manowar will live up to what came before it, but it’s off to a damn good start.