With the rise of female-driven action titles and a demand for similar content in the direct market, we need Xena, Warrior Princess now more than ever before. To hold fans over for a reboot of the television show, Dynamite is back with a new ongoing series starring the tough-as-nails action hero. Will writer Meredith Finch and Vicente Cifuentes be able to craft a story that will reintroduce fans to Xena and keep them interested enough to pick up the next issue?
Written by Meredith Finch
Penciled by Vicente Cifuentes
Colored by Triona Farrell
Lettered by Cardinal Rae
The path to redemption is never easy, and the journey of a warrior princess seeking to wash the blood of innocents from her hands is no exception. Xena travels to Athens, to plead for redemption in the temple of Eleos. But some things can never be forgiven and the shadows of past sins are long. Will Xena find redemption or betrayal waiting for her in the temple of the gods? The power, the passion, the danger… her courage would change the world. Xena: Warrior Princess.
“Xena” has been outside of the public eye for such a long time this installment bears the herculean task of reestablishing the character. Finch has to start at square one and develop the mythology of the television series from scratch in the span of one comic book. The structure of the issue sets Xena in a strange position. The story is extremely simplistic and takes place over one overly-long scene that morphs through different phases. While the material on the page is endearing and a breezy read, it is incredibly disheartening to see only one scene morph and evolve over the course of the narrative presented here.
Establishing this style of hero and not crafting a story around it that seems too generic can be difficult, but nothing about the characterization of “Xena” sticks out in the debut chapter. Seeing the hero awkwardly stumble through the last couple of scenes to join the rest of the cast made the book feel generic and obvious. With a character as simplistic as “Xena,” the creative team may have been better served to try something more ambitious with the narrative. As it stands right now, the stakes of the issue are minimal as no great villain or scenario was established to push the story forward. Hitting the ground running with a strong concept or antagonist probably would have amounted to a greater overall plot.
The bright spot of “Xena” #1 is the art from Cifuentes. The artist made sure to step up his game across each page, as he takes the time for strong facial expressions and dynamic poses from each character. Cifuentes also does a good job with the timing here as each battle has interesting framing and an unexpected moment revolving around a motion that takes place over a few panels. The big moments of the title also look great here, particularly when Xena shows up in a huge, triumphant page. The dynamic expressions and big gestures make the comic feel much more fluid and give way to the illusion of motion in comics. Lots of times in works like this, it can be hard to follow the action in a coherent manner, Cifuentes rises above this comics cliche. From an art perspective, the strongest moment in this issue is the silent first page that transitions smoothly into the next scene–readers may not realize this subtle comics touch until a subsequent read.
The conclusion of the story stumbles in a big way as the narrative trails off with no definitive plot thread to pick up for issue two that would bear any sort of trial for the different characters. The end result is a comic leaving me emotionally cold at the conclusion. When Finch does try to bring in a different villain on the last page, it is a villain the issue previously showed readers they shouldn’t be scared of. Even though it is great to see Xena in action, the issue doesn’t quite have the focus to stumble out of the traditional “Conan the Barbarian”-esque trappings just recast for a different kind of comics hero.Continued below
The heroes have a strong chemistry with each other and the story takes a couple of small twists that are worth celebrating for devoted fans of the property. With such a casual and pleasant vibe, devoted fans of the franchise will still likely find something to appreciate in the chapter even if it is just Cifuentes’s art. Readers hoping for an excellent story may set their expectations too high for “Xena” #1, but if you are looking for a new outlet to see the Warrior Princess herself and are okay with a pleasant comic, this debut may be for you. The hero has never mattered more than she does right now in 2018. I hope Dynamite Entertainment continues to explore the character’s potential going into the New Year beyond this mini-series.
Final Verdict: 6.1 – “Xena” #1 is a pleasant but inconsequential debut issue with beautiful art.