The first of these oversized hardcover editions of X-O Manowar concluded with Aric, the Visigoth warrior from 400AD having laid definitive claim to the X-O armour, and having rescued his people from alien slavery. The question then becomes what to do next.

There’s no doubt in Aric’s mind. His people come from Dacia, he knows where that is, so he lands his spacecraft there, disgorges his people and lays claim to swathes of modern day Romania. It’s an audacious plot on Robert Venditti’s part, and he spends the rest of this collection exploring the ramifications. It could be seen as his extrapolation on the problem of refugees. The opening four chapters were originally gathered as Homecoming, and Venditti contrasts several threads very pleasingly. We see Aric the armoured warrior as he is now, Aric who fought with sword and shield until very recently in his own timeframe, the wonder of modern day society to people who’ve jumped forward 1600 years, and the reactions of other nations to what Aric has done.

All artists working on this book deliver professional polish, be it Doug Braithwaite, Lee Garbett, Trevor Hairsine or Vincente Cifuentes working over Cary Nord’s layouts (sample art). The one mis-step is Nord illustrating a chapter by reverting to the exaggerated musculature and postures he used for Conan, but the distinctive washed-out colouring he uses is effective.

The final two thirds of the book serves two purposes. It launches Unity as a team in their own series, and it escalates the political consequences of what Aric has done. It’s also far more effectively presented here than it was in X-O: At War With Unity. Incorporating the sections plotted by Matt Kindt for Unity so that events unfold chronologically provides a far smoother read that attempting to switch back and forth between the original paperback and Unity: To Kill a King. It does mean the narrative focus switches from Aric in what’s the hardcover collection bearing his name, but better that than the short-changing purchasers of the paperback collection received.

A fast-paced action thriller plays out with Aric on one hand defending his interests and powerful players with other associations set against him. The Unity team eventually incorporates Aric alongside Eternal Warrior, Live Wire and Ninjak, so it’s no real spoiler to note an arrangement is reached, but getting there is a touch and go process, and involves a couple of good surprises.

Usually recommending a hardcover over the individual paperbacks would be a matter of cost, but this Deluxe edition provides the only smooth read for the Unity crossover.