X-O Manowar is one of the best comics being published today. Writer Matt Kindt took a bold approach to Aric of Dacia, which welcomed readers who might have wandered away in the midst of the embarrassing wealth of choices on the comic racks.
Aric of Dacia, a former Visigoth, was born under the oppressive rule of the Roman Empire and has known nothing but war. At one point a deadly alien race abducts him and he bonds with a sentient armor, known as Shanhara. He returns to Earth, but only after 1,600 years have passed. Later, he winds up on the primitive world of Gorin; there we see Aric rise again from soldier to general to emperor, all the while slowly retrieving and using more of Shanhara, which he kept hidden upon his arrival on Gorin.
Once in charge of all of Gorin, Aric must rely on his full suit as he tries to broker peace, but there are too many problems for one man to fix. It's made for a compelling year's worth of comics, as Aric realizes he's in over his head and readers learn that he will eventually return to his home planet.
SYFY WIRE spoke with writer Matt Kindt about the past year and what his future plans are as X-O moves back to Earth, including a big flashback to when he was a Visigoth called "Barbarians." Divinity artist Trevor Hairsine reunites with Kindt to illustrate the story that will kick off year two of X-O Manowar's triumphant run. We also have an exclusive look at all of the covers for X-O Manowar #15 after the interview.
Matt, that was a brave way to start your run. Could you share with us how you came to this very poetic way to unfold the story?
Matt Kindt: I knew that my run on X-O Manowar wasn't going to exist in a vacuum. That was one of the major challenges – to follow the incredible 50-plus issues that Rob [Venditti] wrote. It was important to me to honor what he'd done, but also do something completely different. The great thing about stripping Aric down to his basics – even beyond getting rid of his armor – was to really explore what makes Aric so unique.
I think superficially, X-O gets compared to other armored superheroes, but he really is unique. He's first and foremost a Visigoth from Roman times – a man out of time and place in our modern world. That, to me, is the heart of the character. And then to add this added wrinkle of an alien suit of armor ... he's an incredibly complex character, which makes him so much fun to write. So, to get to the heart of all that, I thought it would be fun to push him back to his "barbarian" days and slowly bring him back. The beauty of doing this makes him super-accessible to new readers that haven't ever picked up an X-O Manowar book, but also makes the previous run of X-O that much richer.
It's also tough to stomach how the different tribes of Gorin turn their backs on Aric, even his lover Schon. The people of Gorin are kind of ungrateful, no?
Maybe. But from their point of view, you've got this blond white guy coming to your planet and basically taking control – taking over. How much would you trust one person in that position with that much power? I think I really can see both sides of it. On one hand, you've got this interloper coming in and taking control of three different cultures and uniting them and putting an end to decades of war. On the other hand, now you've got a (potentially) despotic all-powerful ruler who's taken over and done away with generations of tradition and culture. It's a tough position to be in and not exactly black and white.
In the "Emperor" storyline, taking out a few key players seems like the right thing, but utter chaos has broken out since, similar to how the U.S. has approached solving problems in the Middle East. Did those real events inspire your story at all?
Yeah, I think you've got a lot of cultures side by side for generations, and there just isn't an easy fix. The idea that one man (or nation) can just fly in and fix things – I wish it were that easy. It's interesting to me as a writer to push the idea of a superhero into a situation like that where they aren't necessarily equipped to solve the problem. I also like the idea of this Visigoth who was living a life in conflict with the Roman Empire, using his knowledge and experience to approach more modern problems. It's a mess (in the best way) – at least it's fun to write.
Aric is returning to Earth, which means either success in brokering peace on Gorin or he is booted out by the planet. How will his success or failure affect him once he reaches Earth?
I think he's going to return to Earth a changed man. But I think, even more importantly, we will find out why Aric was on an alien planet in the first place. It's a moment and an issue we've been building to for over a year. There were issues on Earth that prompted his leaving in the first place – a kind of question that the entire series starts with, but has gone unanswered until now. I can't spoil anything, but it's definitely one of the great rare moments you can achieve with a character like this – one that allows him to grow and evolve. Something like that doesn't get to happen very often in mainstream superhero books.
What's driving him back home?
I don't want to say too much to spoil it, but we'll get one kind of decompression issue ... and then we'll find out why he's back. Let's just say that it's not a coincidence that he's arriving home in time for Harbinger Wars 2 – it couldn't be a worse (or better, if you're writing it!) time for him to show up.
Readers have loved the Gorin supporting cast. Is there any chance that we see anything from Gorin once he leaves?
We will definitely be re-visiting Gorin – we didn't spend a year building it up just to abandon it – and we've planted little seeds that will anchor us to [that planet] going forward. Gorin is going to be another rich playground that we can use in the Valiant Universe.
How much time has passed since he last was on Earth?
Good question! That will be part of the fun of his return and the reveal!
Fans will have to wait with Issue #15 where you're starting a new storyline for a Visigoth-centric story from Aric's past; what is it about?
It's a creative challenge for me, really. I wanted to try to do something a little different than what we've seen in past "event" books that cross over with other books and become these massive unwieldy narratives. So instead of getting a double dose of X-O Manowar during Harbinger Wars 2 and in his own book, I thought it would be more interesting to have him take on a larger role in the Harbinger Wars book and then have a contrasting tale taking place in his own title – one that tells a story of him as a Visigoth in Rome – that would both inform his past self and also serve to work in harmony with Harbinger Wars 2 ... Two stories that can be read independently of one another, but also work together in this crazy harmonic way if you're reading both. Both storylines are standalone and also ... not.
What else can we look forward to in this next year of X-O Manowar?
X-O Manowar with a newly sentient suit of armor on Earth again! We'll end up seeing him approaching some familiar problems, but with an entirely new perspective. Something both more advanced ... and barbaric!
Here is Valiant's description for the new jumping on point "Barbarians" Part One:
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!
Jump on board one of the most acclaimed series in comics here as visionary creators Matt Kindt and Trevor Hairsine – the best-selling team behind DIVINITY – reunite for a thrilling, four-part melee of blood and steely-eyed daring at the height of the barbarian age with a brutal new chapter in the epic saga of X-O Manowar!
X-O Manowar #15 is written by Matt Kindt, with art, by Trevor Hairsine and goes on sale May 23. Below is an exclusive look at the cover gallery for this issue. Cover A is by Lewis Larosa and Cover B is by Jim Mahfood, with variant covers by Veronica Fish and Viktor Kalvachev. It's rated T+, is 32 pages, and costs $3.99.