Xena: Warrior Princess #5
Vita Ayala (writer), Paulina Ganucheau (covers), Vasco Georgiev (art), David Mack (covers), Ariana Maher (lettering), Rebecca Nalty (colors), Rachel Stott (covers)
August 14th, 2019
Xena: Warrior Princess #5 continues to delight me in an amazing number of ways. From its art to its storytelling to its series-accurate sense of action, it’s been a beautiful ride. I’m sad that it appears to be ending with the sixth issue next month, but let’s not weep for the memories until we have them.
This issue, appropriate for the approaching fall season, is a bit of a chiller. We rejoin our heroines in the Carpathian Mountains after Baba Yaga kindly delivered them to safety as a reward for helping her in issue #4. Having rested up, Discord, Xena, and Gabrielle are on the case of a local town’s latest problem. It seems that children and women have been disappearing lately, and men have been found ripped to pieces in the woods near the mountains.
The townspeople beg for help and Xena and Gabrielle want to explore the forest together to figure out what’s going on, but Discord hangs back. When Gabs and Xena don’t return the following morning, Discord takes off after them with the team’s capybara in tow—but is stopped by the local innkeeper. He believes he knows the source of the town’s calamity—it is being plagued by Sangele Regeliui—and arms her with a garlic garland and a wooden stake. Yep, it’s vamp-dusting time! But is Discord too late?
The design of this issue is ridiculously beautiful. From the carefully laid-out battle scenes to the angular, jagged framing of the topsy-turvy world within the woods and the mountains through which Discord must battle to save her new friends, everything is laid out in beautiful sunlight tones and then creepy, stygian shades of torchlight orange and vampire red. Georgiev is quite good at drawing out the visual dividing line between the goofiness of Xena’s milieu and the genuinely creepy body horror involved in the existence of werewolves and vampires in this issue. And Natly’s color work in this issue in particular is exemplary and gorgeous. The lore is fitting and interesting for a Xena-fied look at classic horror tropes.
Not that Discord cares about lore while she’s trying to defeat Dracula! This issue successfully complete her character shift from antagonist to protagonist, villain to friend. Since there isn’t a whole ton of Xena and Gabrielle in this issue, Discord has to carry the whole narrative, and the character does so ably. Vita Ayala has done such a good job with her development, and I again have to tip my hat toward them when it comes to the high quality of the writing on display here.
I know—it’s a typical review of Xena: Warrior Princess from Lisa, who loves this series so much. But as the last two issues play out—and the trade paperback prepares to drop—I still strongly advise that folks check it out!