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Becky Cloonan and Michael Conrad preview 'X-O Manowar: Invictus'

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Becky Cloonan and Michael Conrad preview ‘X-O Manowar: Invictus’

‘X-O Manowar: Invictus’ is out May 15.

Valiant Comics is coming back in a big way this year with their Resurgence event. Several series out this May are set to lead the charge, including the four-issue X-O Manowar: Invictus. Crafted by seasoned writers Becky Cloonan and Michael Conrad, the new series features art by Fernando Heinz Furukawa in a story that puts Aric in a tight spot.

Just how tight? We’re talking about Shanhara, the sentient armor, falling silent and leaving Aric alone. The story proper will feature X-O Manowar heading to the heart of Nova Romanus to rescue the Soothsayer, unveiling an odyssey that tests the limits of power, loyalty, and the essence of heroism. There’s also the matter of the cosmic wanderer Ivar, adding a layer of complexity to the intricate tapestry of fate.

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It’s a story that’s taking big swings, which is why I just had to chat with Cloonan and Conrad before issue #1 drops on May 15. Read on to get an inside look at the miniseries, including more story layers and character arcs, and then check out never-before-seen preview pages for the first issue!

Becky Cloonan and Michael Conrad preview 'X-O Manowar: Invictus'

Courtesy Valiant/Alien Books

AIPT: To start, “Invictus” kicks off in May. Is this a continuation of your story “Unconquered”? Can readers expect this to be a good jumping-on point?

Michael Conrad: Yes, it absolutely does continue what we started in Unconquered, but we’ve taken care to write it in such a way that new folks won’t be left in the dark. We open the story not long after X-O’s first significant clash with the Novus Romanus, the space-dwelling descendants of the Roman Empire, and X-O’s hated foes. Yes, it’s as wacky as it sounds, and it only gets more strange from there.

Becky Cloonan: I think it’s smart to approach new arcs as a potential jumping-on point for new readers. Hopefully we can entice people to jump on with the promise of a cosmic-armor-wearing Visigoth finally getting some payback against the space-conquering descendants of the Romans that destroyed his life 1,600 years ago.

AIPT: The solicit reveals Shanhara has gone silent — say it ain’t so! Has this choice added new wrinkles to how you write the story?

MC: I can’t imagine folks who read Unconquered didn’t notice how much Becky and I love Shanhara. Writing X-O with her silent is a big change, but we’re far from done with her!

BC: It does add a challenge to Aric, she’s such a powerful friend, and has been his stalwart friend and confidant for so many years. The real problem comes when another voice takes her place…

AIPT: Fernando Heinz Furukawa draws the series. Is there anything they’ve drawn so far that has blown you away?

MC: The art is outstanding, I’d be doing it a real disservice to point to one panel or page. Following Liam Sharp is a really tough job, but Fernando has really done some incredible things with the emotive facial expressions, building dynamic environments, and providing top tier action sequences. I can’t wait for people to see what’s coming!

BC: I wouldn’t want to follow Liam Sharp on anything! But Fernando has done what few would dare, and knocked it out of the park. It really helps this arc stand on its own as a new story, yet still building on the incredible energy that Liam brought.

AIPT: It seems like longtime fans of Manowar are getting fed, from Soothsayer to Ivar. Has it been fun using these characters?

MC: One of the best parts about X-O is playing in the Valiant sandbox! Aric in particular has been a favorite of mine, and right out of the gate we were overflowing with ideas.

BC: X-O has had so many cool iterations and writers and artists over the past few decades! I started reading X-O way back at the beginning! It’s intimidating to work on characters with so much lore, and history, and it isn’t a challenge we’ve taken lightly. We want to present characters in familiar ways, behaving in ways consistent with what has come before, while also providing unexpected growth, development, and expansion. If we do it right, it will make sense to long time readers, who really deserve to see them presented with care, by one of their own.

Becky Cloonan and Michael Conrad preview 'X-O Manowar: Invictus'

Courtesy of Valiant.

AIPT: The preview on AIPT features a massive monster. What goes into monster design from the writers perspective?

MC: Sometimes it will be reference pictures, Becky is a real dinosaur nerd, so that kind of thing shows up. Aside from that we collaborate with the artists by allowing them room to do what they do best. In other instances the description will be limited to size and some stats, with some we’ll really define the fine details of the creature if we have a unique vision for the page. Regardless of approach, the credit is always mostly due to the artists. They take words and make them come to life on the page, as well as our imaginations.

BC: I always start with, what’s something we haven’t seen yet? How will it pose a new threat, and how will Aric fight it? What are it’s strengths and weaknesses? Where does it come from? Will it be fun to draw? Besides all that, we are always open to artist input. I believe in playing up the artist’s strengths, so if they have an idea they’d really crush I’m all for it!

AIPT: If your four-issue story arc was a song, what would it be and why?

MC: I know Becky is gonna handle this question in a far cooler way than me, as lately I listen almost exclusively to garbage, scores, or podcasts…but…as much as I want to point people to something like “Terminal Deity” by Cave-In, or some other brutal hardcore song; I’ll go with “Little Dipper” by Hum. The song is just very good, and while it might not represent the aggression and violence of the story, it captures something a bit more ephemeral. Much of what motivates these characters is more exquisite than the delight that can be found in smashing space fascists.

Although I can imagine fighting with interstellar despots has a charm all its own, I’ll have to try that out when I get ahead on deadlines.

BC: It’s gotta be “Executioner’s Tax” by Power Trip. It’s violent, it’s visceral, it’s catchy as hell. If our X-O story ever became an animated series, I’d lobby hard for this to be the opening theme song. (The end credits would be Kylesa’s Tired Climb, which I imagine is how Aric will feel after all the shit we’ve put him through. Sorry, Aric!)

Check out an extended X-O Manowar: Invictus #1 preview below!

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