A Visigoth warrior, fights for freedom against the Romans – used to spilling blood on the battle field he’s accustomed to the sticky red coating his person and soddening the ground beneath his feat. Fearless in the face of death, Aric of Dacia fights to preserve his family’s life and the way of the Visigoth people. The opening pages of #1 of BY THE SWORD conveys this message through beautiful rendered graphics and tightly formulated dialogue. Aric’s warrior nature and thirst for battle are well established and lay the foundation for his eventual capture aboard a Vine colony ship.
The Armour of Shanhara – the X-O Manowar suit, cherished by the priests aboard the space ship chooses it’s beholder – time and time again mighty Vine warriors succumb to a painful death upon donning the powerful armour. Aric, a slave , treated little more than cattle orchestrates a plan to rise up against his captures which ultimately leads him to the armour. From there things get interesting. “Shanhara has chosen a human.” - #2
Of the four issues that comprise BY THE SWORD, the opening 3 are the best. I liked the space opera feel aboard the Vine colony ship and look forward to reading more along these lines in the third arc PLANET DEATH (which follows the very good second arc ENTER NINJAK which I bought as individual comics).
While the Vine have some interesting characters, this title is really all about Aric (for this edition anyway). As a result the reader gets to become familiar with the character and is able to feel for his misplacement (some sixteen centuries post his abduction – time has a different meaning in deep space).
Though I have some time to wait until PLANET DEATH is released as a collected trade edition, BY THE SWORD easily caters to my space opera need.
I’ve got to say, the aesthetics of X-O MANOWARD VOL.1: BY THE SWORD is one of the most pleasing I’ve come across in recent times. The issues are separated by their original covers, a heap of information and timeline are provided at the beginning of the book and the extras contain images of alterative covers, listings of other Valiant collections and a blurb of VOL.2 ENTER NINJAK.
Given the ever expanding Valiant interconnected universe, this title has a tone of re-read appeal. Bring on PLANET DEATH – I can’t wait to read more of the Vine on their home turf. 4 stars.