In Review: Army of Darkness/Xena: Warrior Princess: Forever and a Day #3

All "The power...the passion...the danger" one could want, plus an idiot with a chainsaw for a hand.

The cover: Oh, Ashley J. Williams, how do you get yourself into these situations? It seems that Ash has ended up on the high seas with Xena and he’s done something to upset her. What was it? Doesn’t matter, except he’s now walking the plank over a riotous ocean, while the Warrior Princess is using his chainsaw to prod him to a watery grave. To make matters worse, there’s a shark that would make Jaws cringe leaping out of the water to chomp the hero in half. This is a beautiful cover by Nick Bradshaw and Pete Pantazis. The details in this illustration are staggering, with Xena’s costume looking incredibly ornate, the water amazing, and the precision of the linework in the ropes staggering. The coloring is also superb; with so much detail, the coloring could have destroyed the visuals, but Pantazis does an exceptional job in making every element of the cover stand out. There’s also a Black and Variant version of this cover featuring Bradshaw’s work sans Pantazis’s contributions, and it also looks smart. Either of these covers would be worthy to add to one’s collection; although I do prefer the colored version just a tad more. Overall grades: Main A+ and B&W Variant A 

The story: “Many years ago–” Xena cradles the body of Gabrielle. She’s not concerned with her partner’s condition, saying, “You don’t feel that? Like the same thing keeps happening over and over?” Gabrielle agrees, stands, and remembers that the army of Deadites approaching has happened before. The Warrior Princess then notices she’s holding a page from the Necronomicon that Ash gave her. However, she’s puzzled: “Wait–Why so many pieces? Doesn’t… make sense.” She takes the pieces and puts them together, which creates a swirling blue vortex around her and Gabrielle. The scene then moves to “Today” where Ash is in a situation even the Starz series hasn’t taken the hero: strapped down naked to a bed (with a conveniently placed pillow), confessing to Amber that he doesn’t know if he can enjoy what’s about to transpire since he’s so worried about Xena and Gabrielle. Before he and the reader can find out if he will enjoy his “session”, something happens to place him before a character he’s met earlier in this series. Writer Scott Lobdell makes this book incredibly fun. Ash fans want him to stumble into an adventure, fight his way out of impossible fights, and deliver some memorable one-liners. Xena fans wants high adventure with her maintaining her code of honor. To be able to make both audiences happy is quite a feat, but Lobdell does it. The first laugh out loud line I encountered was on Page 10 with a character that Ash meets that delivers a terrific “political” response. Xena’s entrance on 11 captures all of her contained ferocity flawlessly. When the two characters converse on 12, each speaks faithful to their respective incarnations. 15 and 16 shows the pair bonding in a way they haven’t before in this saga and each of them has memorable lines. What the two encounter on 17 is a good surprise and Ash has a way to deal with their situation that will only lead to more trouble. This is exactly how I want to have both characters behave. Overall grade: A

The art: Diego Galindo is a sensational artist. He knows how to lay out a page so it tells the story perfectly and his likenesses of the characters are terrific. The first page is a full-page splash that has Xena looking just like Lucy Lawless — she’s beautiful and powerful. Having her hair flay about surrounded by fiery destruction looks sensational. The army of Deadites that’s about to attack is close enough to be recognizable, but distant enough to give the ladies the time to take action. The two small panels that close out Page 3 bring some great emotion to each character that will be familiar to Xena’s fans: the title character looking perturbed and Gabby looking concerned about what’s about to happen next. These first three pages are a good set up to the instant joke that 4 brings, with Ash tied to the bed. The placement of the pillow, and its design, made me laugh, as did the object that’s off to his left. This is a terrific point of view shot looking down upon him. His exit from this location on 5 is a slick and subtle showcase to demonstrate the magic being employed, but not make it earth shattering. The close up of the character in the final panel on this page is beautiful. 6 is another full page splash, and now Ash’s trademark chainsaw is in a spectacular location — again, Galindo has made this look cool and incredibly funny. The character that Ash meets on 7 looks terrifically threatening, and the character on 10 is flat out awesome. Xena’s entrance is as strong as any she made on television and she’s just badass. Once on their vessel, the two have some incredible illustrations, with the art telling what they’re thinking beyond the text (Page 14 is a good example of this). There’s a fun visual panel on 16 that captures a great sense of motion, with the reveal on 17 being lush. This issue continues to confirm that any book Galindo draws is one worth picking up. Overall grade: A

The colors: The book opens with Xena and Gabby surrounded by flames and Pete Pantazis makes the images hot; the brightness of the fire creates excellent reflections on their hair, costumes, and skin. Xena’s cobalt blue eyes are an instant magnet to the reader on this searing page. The excellent coloring continues onto the double-paged spread of 2 and 3, with the work in Xena’s hair and Gabby’s body strong, and the oncoming army of the undead appropriately crimson. The use of blues in the bottom panel on 3 is a slick way to make magic strong in this setting. It’s also worth noting that the characters’ eyes match the magical blue, which visually suggests to the reader that this pair is as strong as the magic enveloping them. The yellows that make up Pages 4 and 5 are delightfully tacky, only to be dulled by the light blues of magic. The blues really come to the foreground on 6, with Pantazis knowing exactly what to leave white or shaded a different color to have the reader focus on a specific image. The new setting on 13 shows that Pantazis is capable of creating organic light on the characters and where to put the reflections. As good as Galindo is, Pantazis is a match in every panel. Overall grade: A  

The letters: Narration, dialogue, yells, sounds, screams, and the tease for next issue are created by Taylor Esposito. I’m so happy that the narration is different from the dialogue, as most books employ a similar font and use coloring of the balloons to differentiate them. It’s also visually cool to look at, as it’s a font that seems most at home in Xena’s time. The screams are also fun, with the first one on 8 being humorous. However, my favorite of the book is the THBUMP which visually matches its action perfectly. Overall grade: A  

The final line: All “The power…the passion…the danger” one could want, plus an idiot with a chainsaw for a hand. How could this not be successful? Overall grade: A

To purchase a digital copy of this book go to http://www.dynamite.com/digital/viewProduct.html?PRO=C72513025268503011=1

Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer’s Guide for several years with “It’s Bound to Happen!” and he’s reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He’s taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.

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