Tension mounts as Xena and Gabrielle make their way to Athens and a reaction to an unexpected circumstance could separate our two unlikely companions just as their journey has begun.
This issue of Xena: Warrior Princess is a notable step up from the first. In my review for the first issue, I mentioned how rebooting the Xena mythos wasn’t a great move, as there are plenty of stories to tell within the Xena universe without getting bogged down in continuity. This issue does some reconfiguring of that and provides a larger scope for the comic to occupy heading forward. It also brings the series’ recurring character, Callisto, into the fray, and that excited me because she’s one of my favorite parts of the series.
The flashback/dream sequence at the beginning of the issue, showing Xena’s current self horrified at what she had done as a warlord prior to the beginning of the series, was a little overwrought. I can see it being necessary to catch readers up to speed on how she acted before going off on her own if this is a rebooting of the mythos, but somehow I feel it could have been done with less of Finch’s decidedly boring and flat flair. Furthermore, the part with Xena and Gabrielle fighting a couple of cyclops was equally flat, and for an action sequence it didn’t have much…well….action.
What saves this issue though is the development between Gabrielle and Xena. They’re very true to their show counterparts. Xena is stoic and occupies a military mindset of hating to waste time and trying to keep Gabrielle on track. Gabrielle’s characterization is charming and likeable, and her determination to find out what the cyclops were doing was exactly something she’d do in the show. Callisto only got two panels, but she really is one of my favorite parts of the show, so I hope she gets to do something cool, antagonistic, and revenge-y in the subsequent issues.
The art was nice in the first issue, but in this issue I was really very taken with it. Cifuentes’ pencils are smooth and just plain pretty, and the inks occupy nice space and fluidity. This issue has several scenes with fire, and his flame rendering is very realistic without looking like a scary blob. The coloring was also very nice this issue, especially when Xena and Gabrielle were in the forest and the light was shining through the leaves across their faces and bodies in patches. This is an often overlooked detail by artist/colorist who work with characters underneath forest canopies, and this looked really beautiful to boot. Like I mentioned in the my previous review, the faces were expressive while still being aesthetically pleasing which is hard for a lot of artists to do with women.
Xena: Warrior Princess #2 is a step in the right direction after the rather lackluster first issue, but it does worry me that there are only five issues in this miniseries, and we wasted the first one of them on basically nothing. Luckily, the buffoon antagonists from the first issue don’t make an appearance in this one, but it does kind of annoy me that they might not play a part in the rest of the story since I had to deal with them then for no reason. Despite the pitfalls, I enjoyed this issue more than I thought I would. The art and characterization save this from being an empty effort like its predecessor, and with a semblance of plot forming, it can only get better from here.