Title: Xena: Warrior Princess Omnibus Vol. 1
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
Release Date: June 6, 20127
Creators: John Layman, Keith Champagne, Fabiano Neves, Noah Salonga
*Review copy provided by Dynamite Entertainment
I was born in the late 80s, so I have absolutely no shame in admitting that I watched a lot of Xena: Warrior Princess back in the day. Hell, I even played the Xena PlayStation game, if you can believe that was a thing. And now, all these years later, she’s still kicking, and the recent Xena: Warrior Princess Omnibus Vol.1 released by Dynamite Entertainment is a decent enough hoorah for ol’ Xena, even if there are some low points. I will say, though, that this comic actually inspired me to go back and watch some episodes of the 90s show!
For sure the best part of the Xena Omnibus Vol. 1 is the first collection of comics, Contest of the Pantheons. This 4-chapter story sees Xena and her companions— Gabrielle, Joxer, and Autolycus—battling in a contest. It’s the Greek gods’ warriors against the Egyptian gods’ chosen warriors, and it actually becomes a pretty fun romp after it’s all said and done. There’s a lot of action and deceit to be had, and there’s an interesting mixture of Greek and Egyptian mythology. Now, we’re not talking about something incredibly epic here—the comic is pretty much as tonally serious as the television show was—but the Contest of the Pantheons is a pretty fun arch to read through and felt like there was a genuine payoff when it came to an end.
Where the omnibus falls apart for me is the other two collections in the book, Dark Xena, a story where Gabrielle makes a wish that turns Xena back into her evil self (Xena started off as a villain in the show Hercules with Kevin Sorbo), and A Strange Visitor, a sort of sci-fi romp for Xena, who is hunted by an alien visitor who crash landed in Greece. While the first story feels like something that is cohesive and has real stakes in Xena’s world, the two that come after it feels like they’re just sort of there. That’s not to say that they were remarkably terrible or anything, they just didn’t really have as much to offer as Contest of the Pantheons.
I will say that both of the subsequent stories do have their moments though, and those moments keep this omnibus from being disappointing as a whole. For instance, in Dark Xena, while I didn’t truly care too much about most of the storyline, I found it very interesting that Gabrielle scoured the earth looking for an ancient god, even older than the Titans. When she found it, the whole thing turned out to be rather Lovecraftian in spirit. The forgotten god was a many-eyed tentacle dude who had a very Cthulhu vibe that I found really cool, even if he was ultimately very un-Cthulhu in nature. Let’s just say that Cthulhu doesn’t make deals with you to regret and learn important careful-what-you-wish-for lessons from, he just mind-flays the hell out of you and leaves you to claw at the walls of an asylum for the rest of your insignificant life.
Strange Visitor, while being the least satisfying story of bunch, had some cool enough ideas, too. An alien crash landing in Ancient Greece is definitely an idea I can get behind, and Xena finding Odin’s grave and using his spear, shield, and helmet to defeat the alien beast? Very cool, even if it did leave me like, “Odin? Norse stuff, greek stuff? What’s really going on?” I just wish the whole thing was as cohesive as the Contest storyline. Maybe we should be giving it more points for getting the Norse mythology correct, especially things like Xena knowing the name of Odin’s spear, but the whole thing ultimately felt too rushed to be truly satisfying. Strange Visitor is definitely the weakest story in Xena: Warrior Princess Omnibus Vol. 1, feeling like it fit in less with the Xena world than the first two.
The reason for Strange Visitor lacking a bit might be because of the switch in writers. John Layman wrote both Contest of the Pantheons and Dark Xena, while Keith Champagne penned Strange Visitor. It seems to me that Layman had more of a feel for the world of Xena and the interactions of the characters within it that Champagne did, and that lent itself to creating a more believable storyline.
Story stuff aside, the art throughout the Xena Omnibus Vol.1 is pretty good. Fabiano Neves is the artist for Contest of the Pantheons, and Noah Salonga worked on Dark Xena and Strange Visitor. It never really reaches those high levels that some comics do, the kind of stuff you’d like to pin on your wall, but it does the job well enough and manages to never look corny. It kind of rides right in the middle.
Ultimately, there’s a lot of comic here in the Xena: Warrior Princess Omnibus Vol.1, 242 pages to be exact. After reading that much of one story in a couple sittings, it’s hard not to be a little attached to the characters. It actually made me jump on Hulu and start watching the 90s television show again, which is actually kind of fun for how corny it is. The omnibus isn’t amazing, but it’s worth a read if you’re a fan of the series in any way, and will kind of grow on you after you’re done.
- The first storyline is well-told and franchise-appropriate
- Some fan-service
- Avoids being corny
- Not all stories in the omnibus are equally good
- Art is okay, but nothing to write home about