Writer: Erica Schultz
Artwork: Vicente Cifuentes
Colors: Periya Pilla
Letters: Cardinal Rae
What They Say:
The start of a new adventure! A young girl flees for her life—from her parents?! Xena and Gabrielle must determine if the girl is a visionary or a demon. Unfortunately for all concerned, the Oracles of Delphi have already decided!
Content (please note that portions of review may contain spoilers):
In the small village of Zemeno Arachovas, a young girl by the name of Nazar is being tormented by frightful nightmares of unexplainable images which she cannot understand. Although these fits were infrequent before, after the death of her sister Jacoba, the repetitive nature of the events has increased. Her parents Aspasia and Geraki are troubled by what they can do, until they finally consult a healer to examine their child, but with fair warning for the stranger; from past experience they know if Nazar has direct physical contact with someone, the fit becomes more violent, however that is not the true reason. What they do know not are these seizures are actually premonitions for the poor child, and through anyone who touches her, she can see how the future effects that person. It is during this consultation does she see the doctor will later tell her guardians he thinks she is possessed; and if that was not upsetting enough, her parents now recall a previous bout in which she predicted her sister’s death … now thinking Nazar might have been the cause.
Now burdened by this insight, Nazar only confirms these suspicions as she listens to her guardians later that night, hearing them gossip among themselves, and thinking their only option now to is to consult with the Oracle at Delphi. If they confirm their worst fears, her father is determined not to allow anyone else suffer the same pain they did, no matter what the cost. The girl’s hardship now increases several fold, horrified to hear her own parents would go to such lengths to detain and help her. She is determined to consult the priestess herself in order to control these powers, all in an effort to prove she was not the cause of Jacoba’s death and in return, have them love her as much as they did before she a lost sister. However Nazar is not the only one headed toward the sacred city, for a few days later, Xena and Gabrielle find themselves chasing bandits who had absconded with a merchant’s coffer from said metropolis. With two paths now intertwined, how will the Fates test these travellers and will their destinies be tested for good or ill will?
When I heard the series would be shifting to a new writer, to be quite honest I was a bit disappointed, but with new scribe Erica Schultz now handling the adventures of Xena and Gabrielle, I could not be more pleased. She has begun our new journey with a heartfelt saga, but this escapade is more dramatic due to the underlying trauma of a child being persecuted for her mystic powers – in turn being shunned for rejecting a part of herself. While one could delve deeper into the story and speculate as to other defining problems, the one which floats to the surface is a girl trying to find herself, and in turn, accepting who she is even as others reject her. To have to deal with such trauma at such a young age is difficult, but in turn to also to have Nazar’s parents spurn their own child when a stranger insinuates she might be the cause for her sister’s death is shameful, and a powerful drive for the character. Even when she meets our heroines, the cryptic conversation opens a new venue for exploration, and makes the reader think there will be something more in store for her once the pain is soothed. But of course, the most fascinating tangent are the closing pages, making us hope everything within this story arc will be centralized to Nazar – a person with hope for herself and the desire to help others. Let us hope the Fates will be compassionate … otherwise a certain Warrior Princess may have to intervene.
But of course what grabs our attention the most is Vicente Cifuentes’ sensational opening splash – to see Nazar contorted in pain, her eyes rolled back is a most chilling expression of his illustrative talent. You cannot but feel the sadness as her mother cries, and all while the ominous color palette of Periya Pilla only amplifies the tension within the room. However when we learn of her parents’ true intentions, those same shadows guide us toward a darker place, and allow the reader to embrace this child’s apprehension and rejection, empathizing with this poor girl. The emotive display is so wrenching, it allows you to reflect on a similar situation, synergizing this event to resound all the more than just a simple display of sympathy. And yet this amazing artistic team does not permit us a moment of rest as we leap back into the monumental exhilaration which make this title such a pleasure to visually absorb … the excitement of Xena. Although the nostalgia of the original is still encapsulated within this initial fight scene, and you cannot but help hearing the opening theme booming in your ears as you watch the drama progress, there is still an unnaturalness to the scene. While light sources may have switched to adjust for daylight, the brightness of certain colors make events unfold with an annoying visual flair, especially concerning shades of yellow. To watch the Warrior Princess thunder across the panels with Cifuentes’ amazing attention detail is graphically satisfying, but everything grinds to a painful halt once we see what follows after the thrilling chase scene … a stunning display of ill chosen color. Even if Pilla attempted to magnify the excitement of the moment by using a toned down gradient of yellow, this selection is an assault to the eyes, making one stutter to adjust for this golden barrage. The multitude of actions lines should have been enough to emphasize the spectacle of seeing Gabby thrown toward us, but with the addition of this obnoxious display of color, it makes all other examples of this tone standout out throughout the issue and the eye is drawn toward those elements as if on reflex. Due to this singular mistake, the impact of other graphic components do not have the same visual appeal, and you lose any nuances which may be needed, even as we are still absorbed by this amazing conclusion.
As one door closes, the next opens and we are thrown into a new adventure with the amazing Warrior Princess. While the narrative is emotionally satisfying and a departure for what one expects for Xena, you cannot but be captivated by the challenges faced by Nazar. To see her struggle due to circumstances not of her own, it allows the reader to sympathize with the character and only want to know what happens next within her adventure. And while the artwork harkens back to the thrills of the original series, a stumble due to an odd choice of colors keeps the issue from reaching its full potential by blinding us and slanting the palette toward the unusual. Hopefully the future will be toned down and allow for the environment to naturally speak for itself, otherwise we may be in for a visual assault which it may never recover.
Rating: T+ (for Teens Plus)
Released By: Dynamite
Release Date: July 11, 2018