Has it really been 15 years since Xena left our screens? I hated it going then, but I wonder if it wasn’t better left alone…
Previously In Xena: Terrified by visions of Xena’s death at Rome’s hands, Gabrielle sets out to confront August Caesar and stop the violence of his empire. But Xena will stop at nothing to reach Gabrielle in time, including laying siege to Rome itself.
History ruins fiction
I will admit, it’s been a while since I last saw Hercules or Xena. Growing up in the 90’s and with cable TV just reaching much of the UK, it was ‘exotic’ shows like this that saved me from dire repeats of old British TV. Don’t get me wrong, we have some classics like Doctor Who and Fawty Towers, but for the most part pre-2000 ‘local’ TV shows felt like they were made in a kids garage.
So even though it has been a while, I still remember these shows quite vividly and one thing I am certain of is that they happened in ancient Greece. Being a bit of a history nerd I know enough about this period to notice that there was over1000 years between the ancient Greek peak when these myths were created and Augustus Caesars rule in the late 1st century BC.
Ok, I know this makes me a horrible pedant, but these are the sort of problems with a comic that pretty much kill it for me on the title page. A comic cover can grab my attention (and this one fails on those grounds as well by being a production still of Lucy Lawless) but an inside cover blurb can quickly make me put it back in the rack.
But is the actual comic any good?
When short of anything else to read, I often pick up Dynamite comics. I know what I am going to get from them, even if I am not certain about the subject material. I will get some decent action, some pretty women, strong men and a consistent art style, often with a very strong inking. Well it’s my lucky day because I pretty much got none of that.
For obvious reasons the only male characters are weak, but that was often the joke of the show so I will happily let that one slide. We should have a lot of action as Xena fights her way through an area of gladiators, but what we actually get are a collection of unconnected confused panels masquerading as a fight sequence.
Given the shows two stars, Xena and Gabrielle, we should definitely have the pretty women, but again this falls far short of my expectations as when the tyrannical Augustus says ‘Welcome Gabrielle’ I was still trying to work out who he was actually speaking to. It turned out to be the brown robed figure that practically melted into the background were it not for her yellow hair.
So I must have gotten lucky with the consistent art style that I so come to associate with Dynamite comics? Unfortunately unless consistently being inconsistent counts as consistency, this again falls short. The colouring is done with such a muted palette everything merges into one. Sure this is not a superhero book with brightly coloured costumes, but people do not need to be vibrantly dressed in order to stand out. The lead character wears a distinctive black and gold ‘armour’ which stands out in the show, yet mysteriously fades into shades of washed out grey in the comic.
You should never meet your childhood heroes
They often say that you should never drive the car you had on your bedroom wall as a child and never meet the actor who played your favourite character because you will only be disappointed when they do not live up to expectations. Perhaps we should add on the additional line to be ‘never read comic adaptations of your favourite TV shows.’
Admittedly I didn’t have a car on my wall, I had a Kenworth K100 cab-over truck and frankly unless it was voiced by Peter Cullen it would have always been a disappointment; and I’ve met Patrick Stewart and he was a thoroughly lovely man, but I think my additional saying holds true – I should never have read this book, it was always going to disappoint.
To give it its due, this is not all bad. There are moments that show what this book could be. A six wide panel page showing a humorous interaction between Gabrielle and Augustus is by far the best paced and laid out section of the comic. If they had done the fight sequences with that much implied motion in them, it would have worked far better. The introduction of one of my favourite characters from the series was also a nice touch, but again this was spoiled because what should have been a snappy introduction was utterly ruined because I had no clue who he was until Gabrielle introduced him.
Unfortunately all these nice touches disappear into the dull muddy morass of the colouring, coupled with the over detailed pencils which just make the characters look old and haggard and the final nail in the coffin is the dreadful unflowing panel arrangement that kills any momentum the book starts to pick up.
In some ways, I wish I had stuck with my first impression, the inside cover killed it; I should have just put it back in the rack.