In Review: Xena: Warrior Princess #2

Xena's saga continues to burn brightly with this series. Recommended.

The covers: Five to find if you are willing to go on the journey. The first cover, the A, is by Jenny Frison. This is a nice shot of Gabby with her sai in position to do battle. She looks like Renee O’Connor, the actress who portrayed the character on television, and she’s staring at something with concentration. Really nice details on this, from her necklace to the her belt and the metal work on her straps. The colors are also good, with the blending of colors on her flesh excellent and the pale peach background allows her yellow hair to stand out. This was the cover I purchased. The B cover is by Tony Fleecs and it’s really devious if you look at it long enough. Initially this appears to be one of the Li’l fill-in-the-blank covers that are all the rage with some collectors. I’m not a fan of these, but this one gets my seal of approval. Li’l Xena is riding Argo, who looks like something from My Little Pony. This combination is cute, but it’s the background that really sells me on this image: a burning structure that is completely out of place with the cuteness in the foreground. The look of joy on both characters combined with the hellacious flames makes this incredible devious. The coloring is also amazing, with the flames and the purple sky outstanding. The C cover is the same as the A, though it’s the “Incentive ‘Virgin Art'” cover, so there’s no text anywhere on it. If you’re a fan of Frison, and I’ve been a convert for a long time, this is one to track down. The D is also a “Incentive ‘Virgin Art'” cover, though it features the B imagery sans text. It, too, is excellent. The final cover connects with an Issue #1 Variant. This E cover is by Nei Ruffino and is an exclusive to http://jessejamescomics.com and http://exceedexclusives.com. This has a great shot of Gabrielle with her back to a tree, speaking to the Xena image from last month. I’m also a fan of Ruffino, so this is one I must also recommend. Dynamite, you’re killing me with these covers — I want to possess them all! Overall grades: A A, B A, C A+, D A+, and E A

The story: This issue, written by Genevieve Valentine, starts right in the thick of things, showing Xena and Gabby picking up their weapons preparing for battle, accompanied by a song of Xena. Pages 2 and 3 are a double-paged spread showing nine female antagonists (complete with brief summaries) who have an axe to grind with the pair. The battle begins and Xena tries to stop the confrontation by proclaiming she and Gabby aren’t their enemies. The fight ends and the pair go to a location where they are greeted by Erdem, a warlord who also happens to be a brother to one of the women. He offers them a meal and a way to prove their dislike of Rome. The two cannot refuse. However before the pair go on their mission, Xena gets to know one of the women who tried to kill her in the opening, while Gabrielle speaks with the most sinister person in the group. Her troubled visions of the future continue, casting her in the dourest of moods. Valentine is continuing the story begun in Issue #1 well and I was eager to learn more of their possible allies. With ten new characters this issue it’s hard for them all to get some focus, though the individuals that the heroes speak with does flesh out these people. With Gabby keeping her visions from Xena the tension continues to build, making the horrific future all the more possible. More exposition than action, but well done nonetheless. Overall grade: A

The art: The first page is about as heroic as an opening can be, comprised of four vertical panels that show the women rapidly readying themselves for battle, ending with a fantastic hero shot of the pair side by side, weapons ready. Ariel Medel does a terrific job on Xena and Gabby: look at the two of them at the bottom of the page, their poses and faces are just fantastic. Impressive as this is, Medel really outdoes himself on the double-paged spread of 2 and 3 which features the nine new characters, all on horseback! Each individual looks unique, as do their mounts. In this one illustration Medel defines each character, setting up how each will fight on the following pages. The fight is good, with four diagonal panels on 5 showing the speed at which it progresses. Chilapa’s lower half of her face is covered during the fight, but she looks absolutely intense on 5 as she reaches for an arrow. Pages 6 and 7 have very little dialogue, allowing the action to be told primarily by the visuals and Medel really illustrates this well: considering the number of characters involved, it’s very easy to know where each is in relation to the other and how each conflict fares. The emotion on the new characters is very well done, with Chilapa getting some strong scenes on 8. The character that Gabby speaks with on 16 is fantastic: this individual’s appearance is in silence and it speaks volumes about this woman. Page after page, panel after panel, Medel shows he’s absolutely the right person to be illustrating this tale. Overall grade: A

The colors: This entire issue is set at night, but Nanjan Jamberi is skilled enough to create a dark setting and allow the characters to be clearly seen. The blue of Xena’s eyes are as radiant as those of Lucy Lawless’s and every time Jamberi gets an opportunity to color them they are a blast of electricity on the page. Pages 2 and 3 are really well done with all the different colors and blending done for each character and her horse at night. It’s also neat to see that the characters in the foreground are brighter than those in the back, creating an excellent sense of distance for the reader. Having the narration balloons be a different color from the dialogue is a smart way to show the reader that a different form of communication is occurring; and by having them in that mottled yellow makes them seem like ancient pieces of parchment. There’s also some strong lighting effects with a pair of torches on 19; rather than simply color the flame, Jamberi includes a glow around them, making them seem more real. As with the art, Jamberi succeeds throughout on this book. Overall grade: A

The letters: Narration, dialogue, a yell, and the tease for next issue are letterer Rob Steen’s contributions to this book. Steen is a top notch letterer, though this issue doesn’t really give him opportunities to shine. He does everything well, but as this book has only a quick fight scene, there isn’t a need for anything beyond dialogue. Still, Steen’s work is good. Overall grade: A-

The final line: The plot thickens as the cast expands and Xena and Gabrielle have a mission, but one is keeping a terrible secret. Xena’s saga continues to burn brightly with this series. Recommended. Overall grade: A

To find more Xena comics offered by Dynamite go to http://dynamite.com

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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