Xena: Warrior Princess #1 Raul Allen & Patricia Martin, Erica Henderson, Paulina Ganucheau, Emanuela Lupacchino, David Mack (Covers), Vita Ayala (writer), Ariana Maher (lettering), Rebecca Nalty (colors, Olympia Sweetnam (art) Dynamite Comics April 3rd, 2019 Everyone knows her, and lots of people love her. Xena: Warrior Princess, along with her blonde sidekick Gabrielle and their friend Joxer the Mighty, reached
Xena: Warrior Princess #1
Raul Allen & Patricia Martin, Erica Henderson, Paulina Ganucheau, Emanuela Lupacchino, David Mack (Covers), Vita Ayala (writer), Ariana Maher (lettering), Rebecca Nalty (colors, Olympia Sweetnam (art)
April 3rd, 2019
Everyone knows her, and lots of people love her. Xena: Warrior Princess, along with her blonde sidekick Gabrielle and their friend Joxer the Mighty, reached cult fame thanks to a successful TV run that ruled ’90s syndication.
Xena’s comic history has been a long, checkered affair. From a run with Topps Comics that went from recapping the show in panel and ink form to drawing a bead on the show’s campier side, to Dark Horse’s long all-over-the-place series. Since acquiring the license, Dynamite has tried several different things with the property, from giving us a dark AU in which Xena never sought redemption and became an evil warlord, to a three-arc crossover with Army of Darkness that saw Gabrielle fall in love with Ash and have son named Solan, who grew up to look like Ash with blond Super Saiyan hair. (Yes, really)
Its last attempt at forging a new continuity happened just last year and lasted six issues. Most fans found it to be a little on the dry side. Dynamite’s trying again with a splashy re-launch from writer Vita Ayala and artist Olympia Sweetnam. Thankfully, there shouldn’t be a need for another try. Ayala has captured everything fans love about the series, a long-missing element of fun, high stakes, and adventure.
The plot of Xena: Warrior Princess #1 is simple, but not simplistic. After helping a family escape from a group of bandits, Xena and Gabrielle encounter a man, who was originally looking for Hercules, on the road. It seems there’s something wrong with his village, Sideros; the goddess Discord has appeared to proclaim that at the next new moon, she will take all of their children. Xena and Gabrielle agree to help, but Gabrielle only needs to spend an afternoon palling around with the kids to realize why Discord’s so interested in the village. All the kids have been endowed with beyond-human super strength. The reason behind this proves to be quite tragic and leads Xena to offer up a harrowing self-sacrifice to Discord.
I’m not kidding when I say Vita Ayala has perfectly captured all the best things about the series’ mythos, and the things about it I grew up loving: its cheeky, self-referential humor, its butt-kicking action, its faith in the power of justice, its poignant character drama and—Hallelujah!—its queerness. Yes, there’s a Xena/Gabrielle cheek kiss! And snuggling in the bedroll! It’s not the full on lip-lock we got from the 2018 series, but it’s warm and intimate.
The characterization is perfect. Xena is her typical combination of snarky terseness and hidden depth, with her softer side just peeking out, mostly in private with Gabby. Naturally, Gabrielle can reach that part of her, and her job as people person and facilitator continues in this issue. Her effortless belief in Xena and instant willingness to pitch in and help are perfect for her. The chemistry between Gabrielle and Xena is excellent—Xena being annoyed by the familiarity and grabbiness of the innocent travelers whom she and Gabrielle have saved from highway bandits for instance, while Gabby is cheerful about helping them and sending them on their way, and pointing out that Xena smiled when the kid hugged them—was spot-on for them both. The love they have for each other and their shared faith definitely comes through. Our new minor characters feel fully fleshed out too, their predicament worthy of a Greek tragedy.
Sweetnam’s art compliments the story perfectly. While it’s not spot-on for Lucy Lawless or Renee O’Connor likeness-wise, both women are recognizably Xena and Gabrielle. Sweetnam’s general style for the book is part sun-baked Prince Valiant, part John Byrne, which is a hundred percent fitting for this title. Ariana Maher and Rebecca Nalty’s exemplary coloring and lettering boost the excitement level of the volume wonderfully.
Ultimately, Xena: Warrior Princess is the best Xena comic yet. And it might end up being the only Xena series you’ll ever need.