Kate and Gin’s ’90s Nostalgia Roadtrip: Xena #1
Genevieve Valentine (writer), Ariel Medel (artist), Nanjan Jamberi (colorist), Rob Steen (letterer), Jenny Frison (cover artist)
April 13, 2016
It’s time for another ‘90s Nostalgia Roadtrip with Ginnis and Kate! This time our fearless comics critic heroines dive into Dynamite’s new Xena comic.
Kate: So, one of the things I loved about this comic right from the first page was the inclusion of the voiceover from the TV series. It might be a small detail, but it absolutely took me back to those Saturday mornings.
Ginnis: You know, I didn’t actually notice that since it is in the opening pages and not a part of the comic dialogue, but I just reread it, and I can still hear it in that voice with the music in the background. I am so watching Xena reruns tonight.
First impression is—OH MY ARES, IT’S XENA! I thought the art was a little stiff, and I am not sure if the here-we-go-awalkin’ always works in the comics medium, but overall, I am super excited. I love that the antagonists are a group of women, and while things felt tense between Xena and Gabrielle, I thought that seemed suitable to the premise of Xena returning. But, seriously, I need some real Xena-on-Gabrielle action later on, because it is 2016, dammit.
Kate: I am curious if the comic will include a Xena and Gabrielle romance like the new showrunner Javier Grillo-Marxuach has promised. We know that Grillo-Marxuach and Genevieve Valentine know each other. They interviewed each other back in February on iO9, and it’s not going to be a Xena story without moments like this:
Ginnis: I hadn’t read that interview until now, and that convo makes me even more excited for this comic because those two are smart and funny! You could so easily roll with the nostalgia of Xena and do a half-assed job, but this is not the case here, so I am pretty stoked.
Kate: Yes, I found Valentine’s answers contained so much of the same thoughts we had when we were talking about what it means for a TV show to transition to the comics medium. Her excitement makes me excited—but still no answer on whether she will also be making subtext text.
Ginnis: I will tirade if that proves to not be the case, like this:
What do we think about the art?
Kate: I feel like Medel has a really good sense of faces. I love the way Xena’s drawn—she has that always playful smirk I remember so well on Lucy Lawless’s face. But their bodies feel posed—even when they’re walking or in the middle of a battle. The good thing is that even when they feel posed, and they’re wearing the same midriff bearing styles as their TV characters, it doesn’t feel male-gazey.
Ginnis: No, they look powerful (thunderous thighs that can crack walnuts!) and it reminds me of how Wonder Woman is depicted under the right artists’ pen—she stands powerfully, and the perspective is looking up at her. I love that.
I agree on the body language. Overall, it is stiff, which can work in genres with this sort of Greek mythological influence, because it calls back to Grecian urns and murals that tell stories in the way we know comics today. Right now, I feel like Valentine and Medel are still working out their mojo, which makes perfect sense on a first issue, so I am going to be optimistic and say I look forward to when they hit their flow.
Kate: I think that’s fair—it already has a great visual aesthetic and variation on the kinds of panels it uses to tell the story. I just want more life and movement.
Ginnis: Agreed, and I think with time, a balance between that sort of movement and the homage to Classical Greek art would be perfection.
And the story?
Kate: I’m excited for the Harpies. I think it’s really important that we see other strong women right away—and WOC in an active role. The plot of the first issue is Xena and Gabrielle helping two POC children get back to their mother, and so I’m hoping that the Harpies storyline will allow for the WOC to be more than just passive.
Ginnis: Yes, I love the Harpies because they appear to be antagonists, but not villains necessarily. Seeing more women come on to these Dynamite titles, I do see more variations in the skin tones of the characters and not just in the ways that often occur in the fantasy genre—with othering and stereotyping. But it needs to be more. They need to be players in this story, not just there to be saved by the white characters. Like I said at the beginning, it’s 2016, dammit!
Kate: Exactly. The TV show created a diverse world, but the comic should be even more diverse. I want to see diversity in world=building, not just in flashbacks or antagonists. That’s one reason I liked that the children and the mom were people of color, so—keep doing that, but more and better.
Kate: I wasn’t planning on adding this to my pull list, but I’m definitely excited enough about it that I want to read the next issue. I trust Valentine as a storyteller, so I’m hoping she and Medel can turn this awkward meeting into a true partnership.
Ginnis: I will definitely be picking up the next issue, as well, and I will probably end up buying the first trade for my mom. She loves Xena and will be excited to see it back in the medium she loved as a kid. She can even do the Xena cry.
Kate: That’s so great! I love that Xena is a story of generations, and I’m excited for this Xena revival—and the upcoming TV show!