When it comes to the characters in Valiant's massive stable, few — if any — are larger than Aric of Dacia, the hero known as X-O Manowar. After two critically-acclaimed by Rob Venditti and Matt Kindt, former Cable scribe Dennis "Hopeless" Hallum took over the reins. One issue in, he and Emilio Laiso have already crafted one of the best-reviewed on the title in the past few years.
Though Hallum and Valiant both have hefty plans for the character in this "big" ongoing title, things have been placed on a temporary hold as the direct market tries sorting itself out in an attempt to get new comics back into comic stores. As of now, X-O Manowar #2 is due out in late August so while we wait, ComicBook.com caught up with Hallum to talk all things X-O and Valiant. We even have an exclusive preview for the second issue in the run you can see below.
Keep scrolling to see what Hallum has to say about his new X-O run:
ComicBook.com: X-O Manowar. Aric of Dacia. He's one of the biggest names under the sprawling Valiant umbrella. Take us into your initial pitch on the book — how long has this particular storyline been brewing in your head?
Dennis "Hopless" Hallum: I was just thinking about this the other day. I’ve moved twice and am in my third state since Heather Antos and I had our first conversation about X-O. Valiant gave us A LOT of lead time with this project. We were looking for a fresh new take on X-O that could take advantage of Aric’s past and personality without rehashing what came before. My pitch was that we lean into Aric’s humanity. Put him back on Earth in the here and force him to build a modern life with a brand-new cast of supporting characters. I wanted to beef up Aric and Shanhara’s friendship so that their back and forth could be our driving force. And once all of that groundwork was built, I asked permission to go absolutely crazy. Heather said “Hell yeah!” and we got to work.
Of course, this isn't your first rodeo by any stretch of the imagination, but your run follows acclaimed series by Venditti, Kindt, and company. You've written titans like Cable and Spider-Woman before, but even then, X-O comes with this particularly dedicated cult following. As you're developing this story, is there a pressure involved in living up to the expectations of your predecessors?
I love those previous X-O runs so much and had a blast rereading them for research, so absolutely there’s pressure. You want to fill the shoes and clear the bar and every other cliché metaphor… But at the same time, we want to bring something new and exciting to the character. I think that’s the big trick when taking over a beloved franchise, striking that balance. Respecting what came before without retreading. Changing things up with new ideas and directions without losing track of what the fans love.
Luckily we have an incredible team and a badass story to tell, so there’s nothing to worry about. We’ll be blowing the doors clean off.
Though just one issue in so far, thanks to what's all going on at the moment, your X-O run is pretty different from what we've seen before. Though it has those glorious sci-fi tidbits, it still has this certain groundedness to this. Tell us about your motivations in walking this line between this sci-fi space opera and street-level vigilantism.
Grounded, relatable superhero comics is my natural habitat. When I’m given an assignment or asked to pitch on a book, my brain starts trying to figure out the person behind the mask. No matter what, I think my take on Aric was always going to lean hard into his humanity and personal relationships. Bringing X-O back to Earth and giving him an old school super heroic mission statement just made sense. We’ve seen Aric in space battling alien hordes. We’ve seen him topple armies and save worlds. What does it look like when he tries to act a little more locally? How does he navigate the normal human world in the 21st century? How frustrated can he make Shanhara? It felt like a fun opportunity to get to know the man while throwing him into unfamiliar territory.
A lot of Valiant's stuff as of late has been limited series and self-contained stories but, to my knowledge, X-O hasn't yet been solicited it as such. Is that safe to say this might turn into a hearty ongoing? How much story do you have left in the tank here?
This is a BIG story. Capital B. We’ve changed Aric’s whole life and will be building a brand new status quo for the series in the first few issues and then the moment that dust settles, a whole different kind of weird begins. There’s a ton of character and world building to do here and Valiant is giving us the space to do it. Heather and I roughed out several arcs before I even scripted the first issue and everything that happens early on is driving us in a very specific direction. This story has long legs.
You come across your own sentient space armor that can take you anywhere or it can give you all kinds of dope-ass powers you didn't have before. What's the first thing you do with it?
This morning I downloaded a bird call app to figure out what bird I was hearing (sort of a SHAZAM for bird calls situation) and it was absolutely useless. The thing didn’t even ask my location to narrow down the birds by region. Very disappointing. So… While it’s literally my job to think of much cooler things to with X-O armor, the FIRST thing I would do today… Is ask Shanhara what kind of bird that is.
Say your run with Aric comes to a close eventually -- I mean, it's inevitable right? What's the next Valiant character you have your eyes set on?
Cullen Bunn. He’s the greatest villain in The Valiant universe and I’d very much enjoy pulling his strings.
On the flip side of that, is there a particular character you wouldn't want to have to tackle?
Nah. There’s a cool story in every character and Valiant’s roster is pretty stacked. We could come up with something amazing for any of them. Just point me in a direction.0comments
Have you read X-O Manowar #1? What other Valiant characters would you like to see get a fresh take? Think it over and let us know your thoughts either in the comments or by hitting me up on Twitter at @AdamBarnhardt!
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