Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
Writer: Genevieve Valentine
Artist: Ariel Medel
Release Date: 13th April 2016
With so many fantasy titles on the shelves these days, particularly from Dynamite themselves, this book’s unique selling point was always going to be its much-loved characters and the hope that the title would lure in fans of the dearly departed franchise. Unfortunately, in spite of the promising subject matter, this latest comic book offering possesses absolutely none of the charm of the TV series, as instead comes across as yet another flat, disappointing and utterly interchangeable fantasy tale.
The story, such as it is, sees Xena and Gabrielle returning to the world after twenty-five years vanquishing Gods and suchlike, only to find that the threat of Rome is growing as Caesar looks to conquer all in his path. They also find themselves crossing paths with a band of women warriors calling themselves the Harpies, who may or may not be responsible for a series of attacks on villages in the area. There’s no real ‘hook’ thus far, and while the introduction of two young children who Xena and Gabrielle decide to try and reunite with their parents provides an interesting enough dynamic, it really isn’t anything we haven’t seen a hundred times before.
Ariel Mendel’s artwork is also uncomfortably inconsistent here, with the occasional impressive panel or page being utterly eclipsed by the ‘funhouse mirror’ appearance of characters’ faces and a wide variety of gurning, difficult-to-interpret expressions. There are some impressive layouts along the way, and Nanjan Jamberi’s colours keep things feeling relatively fresh, but no matter how much I wanted to get into this book from a visual standpoint, those haunting faces kept disrupting the flow time and time again.
Overall then, there may just be enough here to appease die-hard Xena fans, providing they can temper their expectations. For the rest of us however, this is likely to fall woefully short, providing a shallow, bland and uninspired dose of fantasy fiction. It’s not bad as such, it just feels utterly, utterly forgettable and comes across like a disappointing waste of a potentially brilliant comic book franchise.
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