Xena, Warrior Princess #2: Dark Xena
by John Layman, Noah Salonga (Dynamite, 2007)

Unlike Contest of Pantheons, the first collected volume of Dynamite's ongoing Xena, Warrior Princess series, Dark Xena has a pretty good story to tell.

The television series, for those who remember, ended on a sour note. Xena and sidekick Gabrielle had slumbered for a generation in an ice cave before reawakening to find Xena's fatherless daughter an adult -- and evil, to boot. Forgoing their Greek pantheon of gods, they ended up fighting in a war between Heaven and Hell. Their friends from earlier seasons were all either old or dead. And, by the final episode, Xena was dead, too.

Contest of Pantheons started off in a confusing place. Xena was alive, Joxer was alive and young again, and Callisto was in Hell (although she ended the series in Heaven). Dark Xena goes back and explains things (except for the Callisto bit, which it ignores).

Gabrielle, bereft of Xena, seeks a powerful elder (Lovecraftian) god to bring the warrior princess back to life. C'thulon agrees, but in a monkey's paw sort of way; Xena comes back evil, the way she was before learning goodness, compassion and that killing bad guys is fun. So Gabrielle, guilt-stricken by the trail of corpses in evil Xena's wake, sets out to undo her mistake, a task that involves her dying her blond locks red and wearing tight leather. Whoo!

The story by John Layman is good, and it feels true to the feel of the series. Art by Noah Salonga is also good, although you get the feeling he's seen photos of the costumes used in the series, but not the actors who wore them; Lucy Lawless, Renee O'Connor and the rest certainly don't have to worry that their images have been misused, since these people look nothing like them.

The backup tale, scripted by Keith Champagne and drawn by Salonga, plays off a tired Predator riff and is much less interesting.

Still, after one very big stumble, Dark Xena has convinced me to give this series another try.

review by
Tom Knapp

4 October 2008

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