By Ashley Gibbs
I’ve always had an interest in strong female characters growing up and still do. She-Ra, Wonder Woman and of course Xena, whose television show mixed strength and humor with ancient Greek mythology. I was excited to read Xena: Warrior Princess Omnibus Volume 1 as I have not read any of her comics previously and haven’t seen the show in many years, I was ready for an awesome nostalgia trip. Sadly, what I got instead was a rather mediocre book that I ended up only enjoying one story out of the three provided.
This omnibus collects three different Xena adventures: “Contest of the Pantheons,” “Dark Xena,” and “A Strange Visitor.” Out of these three, I found the first story to be the most reminiscent of a classic episode of the television show, which is what I was looking for while reading this. While the other two stories aren’t bad, they don’t carry the same impact.
The highest praise I can give a story in this case is that while reading it I could hear the actor’s voices in my head saying the lines. That’s the feeling I got from “Contest of the Pantheons,” a story about the Egyptian gods going to war against the Greek gods with Xena and company caught in the middle. While they faced a very serious threat, I still found myself laughing at their adventures and enjoying the action which was abundant in all four collected issues.
“Dark Xena” is another four issue collection that takes place after the ending of the television series and before “Contest of Pantheons.” One thing I enjoyed about the previous story is that no time period was mentioned, it could have taken place almost anywhere in the series but this story attempts to rewrite how the television show ended and while I wasn’t a fan of the later seasons and endings, trying to redo it here feels cheap. Xena is dead and Gabrielle is determined to revive her so she seeks out an elder god who grants this wish, with a twist. Xena is once more evil and Gabrielle must bring her friend from the darkness. How does she do this? I honestly can’t tell you. She has a plan but it’s not a good one, and the resolution to the problem is very weak. This evil Xena trusts Gabrielle for no reason other than a “feeling” and it makes her judgement seem weak because she has no memories of her past life so she has no logical reason to believe anything Gabrielle says. Despite having four issues to plot things out and show a progression, we’re not given anything and in the end the elder god learns about love and fixes everything anyway which again, is an empty victory.
While I could probably spend paragraphs picking apart what I didn’t like about the second story, “A Strange Visitor.” doesn’t fill me with such pique. I felt it was the weakest story mixing sci-fi aliens with Xena, and while the concept of an alien ship landing during ancient times isn’t new it’s not what I want from a Xena story. A ship crashes and Xena finds the pilot on it dying so she grants him a merciful end, however his mate sees this and in turn goes on the hunt for vengeance. The main conflict is a misunderstanding caused by a language barrier which makes a lot of sense. Sadly, I didn’t know these aliens and didn’t care about them, despite the overuse of poetic dialogue trying to show how in love they were. The action sequences were nice but the entire story is littered with overly poetic dialogue, which at first I enjoyed but soon tired of as Xena spent more time over analyzing everything than actual jumping into action.
The book’s art is not groundbreaking. I preferred the style of the first story, it reminded me a lot of the show and the characters looked like their actors. It has great use of colors as well as shadows. While the likenesses to the actors aren’t executed perfectly all the time, for the most part things look good. The second and third story share the same artist though I preferred their work in “A Strange Visitor” because I felt the coloring and shading was handled better. While the characters don’t look as show-accurate, you can tell who they are and the action flows nicely.
Xena: Warrior Princess Omnibus Volume 1] offers one really great story, a good but frustrating story from a fan perspective and one story that is completely forgettable. If you’re a fan of the show I do think you’ll enjoy this book, even if you agree with my assessments of the stories they are well written and a good nostalgia trip. While I can’t help but suggest getting “
“Contest of Pantheons” as trade paperback instead, this omnibus is a lot of Xena in one package for around the same price point.
Xena: Warrior Princess Omnibus vol. 1
Writers: John Layman, Keith Champagne
Artists: Fabiano Neves, Noah Salonga
Colorists: Richard Isanove, Chris Garcia, Carlos Hernandez
Lettering: Simon Bowland
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment