In 402 AD, a barbarian tribe known as The Visigoths are battling The Romans for territory in Italy. Aric of Dacia is a warrior of the Visigoths and the nephew of King Alaric. After being defeated in The Battle of Pollentia, The Visigoths retreat to their camp to find many of their women and children have been captured by the Romans whilst the men where in battle. Aric's wife Deidre and his mother Inga were among those taken. Aric's father Rolf was mortally wounded during the battle and died later that night in camp. Whilst King Alric attempted to negotiate the release of Visigoth captives from the Romans, Aric gathered together a group of warriors including his right hand man Gafti, to attack the Romans at night. On their way to the Roman stronghold, The Visigoths come across strangely dressed warriors whom they mistook for Romans. Aric led the attack on these warriors who turned out to be an alien species known as The Vine. Using their advanced weapons, The Vine easily defeated the barbarians, killing many of their number. The remaining Visigoths were taken aboard the alien mother-ship to be used as slaves.
Whilst being herded on board the alien ship, Aric and Gafti managed to overpower their jailer and escaped to find shelter within another area of the ship. In this room they witnessed a Vine ritual in which a priest presented a chosen soldier with a semi-sentient armour called Shanhara. The armour was initially in the shape of floating orb but adjusted itself to fit the soldier. However it transpired the soldier was not worthy enough to be chosen by the armour which then killed its wearer and returned to its original orb shape. Aric and Gafti were recaptured whilst watching these events in awe. The Visigoths weren't the only humans imprisoned by The Vine as other slaves were also captured from around the world. The enslaved humans were treated savagely by their captor and made to work as farmers in a forested area within the mother ship. During one incident while trying to protect Gafti from a beating, Aric had his left hand cut off by one of the slavers. Slowly the humans started to sneak in tools into their cages and after receiving directions to the Armory by the slave who tends the halls, Aric formed a plan of escape. After a number of years, Aric and the other slaves finally managed to gather enough tools to use as weapons and escaped their cages. The humans made their way to the Armory, killing a number of The Vine on the way. On reaching the Armory, they found themselves trapped by Commander Trill and his soldiers. Sensing imminent death, the humans turned to see that Shahnhara had deemed Aric worthy and he now possessed the power of an army.
For the 2012 Valiant relaunch, X-O Manowar was re-imagined by writer Robert Venditti and artist Cary Nord. His first reappearance was in the story "Blades and Open Fields" in X-O Manowar #1 (May 2012).
Major Story Arcs
The Road to Rome
After escaping The Vine mothership with Shanhara (X-O Manowar armour), Aric returns to Earth to look for his wife Deidre and the rest of The Visigoths. However when he reaches Rome he soon realises that this is not the world he left behind. Due to time passing at a decelerated rate aboard the Vine ship, centuries have passed on Earth and everyone he knew and their way of life was gone. Aric soon finds himself facing both the Italian police and air force but manages to escape to the jungles of South America. Meanwhile The Vine attempt to retrieve Shanhara and send Alexander Dorian along with a special forces strike team to kill Aric. The commandos are killed in the ensuing battle and not realising Dorian is actually a plantling of The Vine, Aric captures him. Meanwhile Patrick Clement, the head of MI-6 and also a Vine plantling, hires the British superspy Ninjak to finish the job.
Hunter & Hunted
Ninjak tracks down Aric and Dorian in South America and using covert tactics against the brash barbarian, subdues and captures his target. Whilst being transported back to England, Dorian discovers The Vine will destroy the earth regardless of capturing Aric. Having spent his whole life on Earth and become used to a lavish and carefree lifestyle, Dorian decides it's in his best interests to free Aric and help him stop The Vine. Ninjak captures Dorian in the act but Aric nonetheless manages to escape. A tremendous fight between the barbarian and the ninja follw, ultimately leading to the plane exploding over Guyana. Ninjak parachutes to safety while Aric rescues Dorian.
Back on land Dorian explains The Vine's plans to Aric who mistrusts Alexaner as he is one of the aliens. Ninjak meantime tracks down the men and another fight with Aric begins. This time however Dorian manages to stop the fight and prove he is telling the truth. He also informs the pair there are thousands of Vine plantlings like him stationed in positions of power across the world. Thus an uneasy alliance is formed between the trio leading Aric and Ninjak to attack Clement at MI-6. During the assault in London Aric and Ninjak manage to not only kill Clement but numerous other plantlings stationed as intelligence officers. Afterwards Dorian provides Ninjak with a list of the plantlings on Earth and he takes this to a trustworthy contact at the agency. Back in New York, Dorian finds out The Vine know that he's a traitor.
Prelude to Planet Death
It is revealed on board The Vine mothership that Gafti had been kept alive all along and was being tortured by Admiral Xylem for information on Aric. The aliens even operated on his brain to allow him to understand their language. Back on Earth Aric doscovers further powers of Shanhara. He finds he is able to communicate with the aliens and even drop in on their psychic gatherings. Aric also finds he is able to sense The Vine's presence and is alerted when Commander Trill and his X-O Commandos launch their attack on Earth. Aric eventually defeats the first wave of attack and sensing impending defeat, Trill brings out Gafti as a hostage and wants to bargain his life for the armour. Aric is shocked to see his friend still lives and makes the trade, but a double crossing Trill shoots Gafti. Using his telepathic link to Shanhara Aric cripples Trill and brutally assaults him, finally killing him. However Trill was able to contact Admiral Xylem who commands a full scale attack on Earth.
Meantime Aric uses Shanhara to heal Gafti but once the armour bonds with him, Gafti violently attacks Aric. Gafti blames Aric for all the suffering he's endured and for the loss of his family. Aric refuses to fight his friend and Gafti sees the error of his way. Still wearing Shanhara Gafti senses the Vine attack and after saying goodbye to his friend, flies into the middle of the Vine ships and destroys them all, sacrificing himself in the process. Shanhara returns to Aric who decides to take the fight to The Vine home world itself!
On arriving on the Vine home planet Loam, Aric quickly dispatches of a number of the aliens before coming across the High Priest. The High Priest is a firm believer that Shanhara has chosen Aric as he is worthy and that Aric will eventually lead to The Vine’s salvation. Not trusting the words of his once enemy, Aric nonetheless allows the High Priest to tell him of his beliefs and thus finds out the origin of Shanhara. Elsewhere on Loam, The Vine High Council has ordered General Axil to attack Aric with the full force of their military and destroy the X-O Manowar armour in the process. The Council feels that Shanhara’s prophecy is untrue as it has chosen a human host and destroying it will open their people’s eyes.
The Vine military strategically attack Aric and he is severely wounded before managing to escape. Aric loses Shanhara during the carnage and is knocked unconscious. Surprisingly he is secretly rescued by a Vine soldier named Dalgan. When Aric awakes he finds himself in the slave camp being treated by the beautiful Saana. Dalgan appears with the High Priest who tells Aric that Dalgan is also a believer in Shanhara’s prophecy. Dalgan then bows down to the chosen one and Sanaa is shocked to see one of the master’s bowing down to a human.
Meanwhile the military have discovered Shanhara in the jungle and present it to the High Council who realise Aric must have taken refuge with the slaves. The High Council give the order to kill all the human slaves along with Aric. Back in the slave camp Aric discovers these slaves are direct descendants of The Visigoths who were originally captured by The Vine and rallies his people for a rebellion. The High Priest informs Aric that humans aren’t the only slaves The Vine have captured and shows him alien captives from around the universe. Aric uses his telepathic link to recall Shanhara and rallies all the slaves for an assault on The Vine.
A tremendous battle rages when the slaves led by Aric and The Vine military face off. The High Council realise they may loose the battle and order General Axil to launch their super weapon from space. Axil refuses as it would mean murdering many of his own people and also says after seeing X-O Manowar in action, he now believes Aric is the chosen one. The High Council murder Axil but are immediately attacked and killed by X-O Manowar. Aric decides to take his people home to Earth and leaves the High Priest in charge of Loam.
When Aric returns to Earth, he invades the part of modern day Romania where the Visigoth home of Dacia used to be. Aric declares it now the land of The Visigoths and proclaims himself their King. He is visited by his former teacher Gilad Anni Pada, the Eternal Warrior. Gilad warns Aric that the path he is on is not acceptable and tries reasoning with him. However Aric won't change his stance and the two end up fighting. Gilad proves too much for an un-armoured Aric due to his strength, skills and experience. After being thrashed about by Gilad for a while Aric dons the Shanhara armor and gains the upper hand himself, breaking Gilad's arm. Aric notices his uncle's crown was destroyed in the clash, and Gilad leaves Aric, telling him that everything will be ruined since he ignores Gilad's warning.
At War With Unity
The Russians decide to retaliate with military force after Aric and The Visigoths take over a part of Bucharest. However Aric manages to easily defeat the Russian forces. Fearing a full scale nuclear war, Toya Harada, the most powerful psiot in the world and the leader of the Harbinger Foundation, puts together the Unity squad to deal with Aric. Unity is made up of the Harbinger Foundations most powerful psiots but they are eliminated with minutes of confronting X-O Manowar. Harada retaliates by putting together a second team consisting of himself, Eternal Warrior, Ninjak and Livewire.
Unity eventually defeated X-O Manowar after Livewire bonded with Shanhara. However this bond also revealed Harada's true intentions of world domination and the squad turned on their leader. With Harada defeated, Unity returned the X-O Manowar armor to Aric who subsequently joins the team. Meanwhile Aric also makes a deal with the US military organization M.E.R.O. to work for them in return for a home and safety for his people.
Now allied with Unity, Aric sets about overseeing the new homeland of the Visigoth people in Nebraska. Alas, their peace doesn't last: a group of alien warriors come to Earth, demanding that Shanhara be turned over to them for destruction. Capshaw, not wanting to lose her greatest asset, refuses. In response, the leader of the Armor Hunters, Primary Reebo, orders GIN-GR to decimate Mexico City, killing thousands. The Armor Hunters then descend on Earth, plunging the planet into all-out war. The damage done and loss of lives caused Aric to give up the fight as it started. Eventually though, he steps amidst the war in hopes of ending it as soon as possible. With the help of Unity, he was able to defeat the rest of the Armor Hunters.
Valiant Universe (VH1) - Pre-Unity
Aric of Dacia was a man in a barbarian society which was at war with the Romans. While he was away from his village one night, Aric was abducted by a malevolent race of spider-like aliens known as the Spider-Aliens, a race which controlled a vast star empire. Aric was to be a food source for the Spider-Aliens and was imprisoned with many other humans who were doomed to the same fate. Aric encountered one man known as Map-Giver who showed Aric a way of escape via the Spider-Aliens' most powerful weapon, the X-O Manowar armor, a sentient suit of armor which could decimate legions of its user's enemies. The path to the armor was carved into Aric's hand.
When the Spider Aliens returned to Earth, Aric's prison was disrupted by an attack from a being known as Solar. Aric quickly made his way to the X-O Manowar Armor and bonded with it, quickly escaping the ship. Upon returning to Earth, Aric learns that a thousand years has passed since his abduction, although it has merely seemed like months to him. This was due to the fact that the Aliens were using a relativistic propulsion drive; while the inhabitants of the ship were moving at incredible speeds, time passed more slowly for them.
X-O Manowar was created by writer Jim Shooter and artists Bob Layton and Jon Holdredge. He first appeared in "Retribution Part 1: Into The Fire" in 1992.
Major Story Arcs (Pre-Valiant Relaunch)
Aric quickly discovered that the Spider-Aliens had established a powerful beachhead on Earth through the company known as Orb. Aric destroyed the aliens in charge of the company and, using the suit's inherent technological abilities, hacked the computers to show that one Aric Dacia now was the owner and CEO of Orb. The suit Aric wears grants him many abilities, including Super-Strength, Flight, energy projection, telekinetic abilities and heightened senses and is controlled via a ring emblazoned with an X inside an O.
When the powerful Mothergod (Erica Pierce) uncovered the Lost Land and used the lands as a base of operations to rule the universe, Solar, Man of the Atom, gathered various heroes and warriors to the Lost Land to fight against her forces. Aric was one of the chosen to fight against Erica. However, after arriving to the primitive and savage Lost Land and saving a group of slaves who were being used to feed the land's Bionisaurs (dinosaurs enhanced with cybernetics courtesy of Mothergod), Aric found himself more content with ruling over the grateful and freed slaves as their king and battling Erica for more land instead of helping Solar and his allies in stopping her grand schemes.
Erica recognized Aric as a nuisance, but viewed his X-O armor as an extremely powerful asset and met with Aric on "friendly terms", offering him whatever he desired. With his guard lowered, Aric separated himself from his X-O and engaged in physical love-making with a beautiful women given to him as a gift by Mothergod. With the armor off his body, Mothergod attempted to manipulate it mentally and sent a seige of Bionisaurs to Aric's camp, one biting Aric almost in half. The X-O returned to Aric to keep him whole and help him fight off the attack, but the damage done to his body would take the armor a long time to heal him. Infuriated, Aric would return to the side of Solar and attack Mothergod directly in her Unity Tower.
Aric's original armor, Shanhara, was destroyed, but with the help of Solar was replaced with another, more advanced version using a human sacrifice to create it. This armor was known as Pol-Bekhara. Sometime later a new enemy Crescendo systematically destroys Aric's life and kills a great deal of his associates, including former X-O wearer and love interest Randy Cartier.
To make matters worse, the human essence never fully bonded correctly with the X-O and eventually tried to gain control of the armor itself. Aric was force to expel Paul Bouvier's lifeforce and this rendered Pol-Bekhara non-sentient. Aric is then forced to fight Paul, now known as Alloy (Paul merged with the remains of Shanhara). The two do battle and Aric is force to destroy his former friend. Despite the loss of his armors AI, the X-O was still a formidable weapon and vastly superior combat wise to the original.
With the death of his friends and the destruction of Alloy, Aric would wander the streets, finding odd work.
Skills and abilities
Aric was a barbarian around 990 A.D. and was a fierce warrior both armed and unarmed. From an early age Aric was skilled in combat both unarmed and with any weapon. He has years worth of fighting experience. Before coming across the X-O, Aric's preferred weapon of choice was the sword. In the modern time he was brought to, he managed to slay a spider-alien, a very resilient enemy with only a sword. Aric retains his barbaric fighting skills even after learning how to control the X-O. Even unarmed, Aric is formidable. Aric has proven himself a savage fighter even when he is forced to fight weaponless and without the X-O covering him.
The X-O Manowar Armor (Shanhara)
In the reboot, the Manowar armor is said to be spawned from the Hara Vine, a mythical plant that is not indigenous to Loam. According to legend, the Vine were once enslaved by a race of conquerors known as the Torment. But one Vine hero, who found the Hara Vine, was able to wield the armor and free his people. The armor taught the Vine how to access the Gatherings, and an age of prosperity began for the alien race. Before his passing, the Vine hero prophesied that one day, a chosen one would be deemed worthy to wear the armor, and usher in a new golden era for Loam.
Since that time, many Vine have tried to wield Shanhara, but the armor has killed all who have attempted to harness its power. Aric of Dacia became the first successful wearer of the armor. The specific reasons why are unknown, but members of the Vine Council theorize that it is because all Vine are inherently unable to wear Shanhara. The Manowar armor is considered to be a deity on Loam, so a human barbarian being 'worthy' is seen as blasphemous sacrilege by the Vine.
Shanhara itself is a techno-organic symbiote with an active consciousness. It is able to mentally bond with its user, and share information by telepathically 'talking' to them (e.g. when it showed Aric images of Earth's history). Shanara is also capable of dynamic adaptation to various scenarios, whether or not the user realizes it (e.g. the armor adopting a stealth mode in order to confuse a fighter jet's targeting systems).
The armor grants Aric the following abilities:
- Energy blasts: The armor is able to fire green energy blasts from barrels in the suit's forearms. Shanhara has an apparently inexhaustible power source for these blasts. Aric has destroyed and aircraft carrier, and a submarine with a single blast.
- Lightning constructs: The armor is able to generate solid weapons from lightning. Aric typically forms his signature lightning sword with this ability, though other users such as Gafti have shown that other weapons can be created as well.
- Missiles: Small missiles are stored in the armor's forearms.
- Superhuman strength: The armor enhances Aric's strength to a vast degree. Aric has easily destroyed planes, ships, and helicopters with ease, and crushed alien mechs, as well as tanks.
- Superhuman durability: The armor is extremely resilient to damage. It is impervious to conventional firearms and Vine weaponry, heavier ordnance like missiles and grenades can give him a pause, but he is generally unharmed by them, even at point blank range. Aric was capable of withstading an explosion which left a large hole in an alien ship with minimal injury. While fighting another user of the Manowar users, he was able to withstand being slammed into the street hard enough to leave a large crater.
- Flight: Aric is able to keep pace with fighter jets while airborne. When in-flight, the armor generates concentric rings of blue fumes in its trail.
- Power-absorption: Aric is shown to be able to absorb the power from a Vine mech, and redirect that energy for offensive purposes. Gafti, while wielding the Manowar, demonstrated this power at a larger scale when he drained all the engines of Vine invasion fleet, and redirected it - destroying the entire armada.
- Information capabilities: The armor is able to sense danger and even intercept enemy communications. The helmet also has an x-ray function built into it. It is also able to tap into a planet's geographical and historical records.
- Interface: Shanhara is shown to be able to interface with extraterrestial technology such as Vine starships.
- Teleportation: The Manowar armor is capable of interstellar teleportation, though this ability has only been shown to have been triggered subconsciously by Aric.
- Regeneration: Aside from being able to heal itself, the armor is also capable of regenerating its user's anatomy. The only downside to this function is that more of the user's body becomes part of the armor itself. Aric was able to regrow his amputated left hand when he first wore the armor.
- Universal translation: Shanhara also grants its wearer with the ability to speak any language. Aric was able to speak Italian, English, Vine, and a number of other alien languages thanks to the armor.
- Stealth mode: Shanhara is able to adopt a more angular form in order to scramble conventional targeting systems.
- Remote control: Aric maintains a telepathic bond with Shanhara, and can mentally summon the armor to him, even when it is in its dormant form. Aric can also remotely trigger defensive measures for parts of the armor.
- The Gatherings: The armor also allows Aric to tap into the Gatherings of the Vine. This is likely because Shanhara was - according to Vine legend - responsible for showing the aliens how to access the Gatherings in the first place.
Despite the Vine claim that Shanhara kills all wearers who are not 'worthy', there have been other successful users of the armor. Livewire of Unity was able to utilize her technopathic abilities to steal the suit from Aric for a limited time. And Aric himself was once able to command the armor onto his friend Gafti, in order to use Shanhara's healing abilities to save his dying friend. Gafti was subsequently able to use the armor to the full extent of its abilities as well.
Shanhara is also not unique, but is merely one of a species of sentient armors that populate the universe. Multiple alien races have also been able to wear the armor, such as Malgam.