Writer: Erica Schultz
Artwork: Vicente Cifuentes
Colors: Periya Pilla
Letters: Cardinal Rae
What They Say:
How far will Sevdis go to fulfill her obsession of Xena and Gabrielle? Will she … KILL them? As Xena searches for her comrade in arms, Gabrielle’s time may be running out!
Content (please note that portions of review may contain spoilers):
When Xena and Gabrielle entered the city of Dyme to investigate Xena Fest, they never expected to see old friends Joxer and Autolycus entangled within this scheme, and worse yet the blonde bard also did not anticipate being kidnapped to fulfill some crazed admirer’s tilted fantasy. Now finding herself tied up within an isolated room and confronted by someone dressed like the Warrior Princess, this girl named Sevdis begins to unravel her dream of imitating her idol, inspired by watching plays of the woman’s prowess twelve years ago in Athens; although she was encouraged to write her own stories of Xena, the playwright she showed them to was not interested and it was only then did she realize the only person who could understand would be the former warlord herself. And as her monologue began to trail off with ramblings of taking Gabrielle’s place by killing her, an anxious knock came to the door and reminded this wild fanatic she had another job – organizer of the Xena Fest and problems had arisen.
However as the tense situation turns outside, Xena has been observing the densely packed crowd with her companions, trying to find this secretive woman behind the charade … but it was only then did the person in question emerge within earshot. After hearing the name Sevdis just ahead the Warrior Princess wastes no time confronting this elusive entrepreneur, only to be surprised her quarry was also looking for her, but instead responding to this search with a flaunting remark of being better than her idol. Amused this little girl thinks she is a match for her, they both draw weapons and answer each others questions with a clash of blades, much to the surprise of the people gathering wanting to watch this new spectacle. Although the first exchange is easily thwarted by a swift front kick, this does not dissuade the pretender, only spurring her on to fulfill a self imposed obligation to show herself and all those watching who is the true hero within the city. While Joxer wishes to stop this fight, the King of Thieves wants it to play out, allowing his partner to search for Gabby as the greedy rogue begins to take bets on who wins. However as Sevdis becomes more disenchanted with the truth behind Xena, this only makes her idolization turn into rage, stoking the fire and pronouncing there can be only one outcome – but who will be victorious in the end?
As we come to a close of the current incarnation of Xena, I can pleasantly say I fully enjoyed Erica Schultz’s tenure as writer for this title, with this final story a notable exception. To see her expand on the Warrior Princess’ guarded benevolence and shrouded sense of justice it is heartwarming, all while keeping in mind a stolid personality from the source material, even through to the finale. And yet with every run there is a narrative which stands out for a viewer and for myself, it is this tale influenced by modern ideas – the Xena Fest which is reminiscent of a comic book convention with an overzealous fan. This is a shame since the Nazar story arc was truly outstanding, showing us a caring side of Xena which can be forgotten when we are bombarded by signature excessive battle dances, which somehow Schultz managed to keep contained within selective moments of dynamic clashes at opportune times. And yet when we lapsed into this closing story arc, the tale became too preoccupied with her more violent side and concentrated on this forte to create a misunderstood persona in Sevdis, obsessed with the Warrior Princess’ past conflicts and not concerned with her change for redemption as was the goal for the television series. This confused fanatic was more focused on past ruthless victories and not the person Xena was now determined to become – someone who wished to forget those conquests and focus on the good she could now do with her sordid reputation leading the way for more virtuous deeds. By allowing this short narrative to take away from our heroine’s lofty ideals, it detracts from the grandeur of the previous tale by celebrating her past ignoble victories, thus closing the title with contemptible memories of violence and glorifying that might makes right … something which is the complete opposite of the person Xena is today.
In lieu of this listless finale, the series’ illustrator Vicente Cifuentes still is able to create an exceptional visual display, even if at times he seemed more concerned with overemphasizing our heroines’ now voluptuous curves. Barring this glaring distraction, it is undeniably Cifuentes who weaves an amazing tapestry of wondrous dynamics, projecting the strength and determination within these distinctive characters, always acknowledging the original actors by portraying them true to their moldable personalities. You cannot but wonder if he watched the original series to help establish each person’s template, even going so far as to create a similar one for antagonist Sevdis, almost as if she is modeled after Gabrielle, but in a flawed sidekick image. Throughout the title we are submerged within the glory of the source material – whether we race along on Argo, fight mythical twin oracles or ordinary nuisances as bandits, delve within the tranquil settings of Ancient Greece or face off against one of her most menacing foes in the form of Callisto, you cannot deny it was his skills which allowed the reader to fully submerge within this impressive world. And yet as we are thrilled by his outstanding attention to details within his impressive artistry, it is the smothering palette of the latter series colorist which detracts from this enthralling environment, that of Periya Pilla who brings with him a sense of overindulgence with certain choice palettes, namely yellow and all of its gradients.
While he skillfully enriches most of the enticing scenery with subdued shadows and muted tones which bring out emotional fervor within the panels, once we are exposed to open atmospheres which require excitement or seeing Gabrielle, this is where his enthusiasm becomes suffocating. When we were first exposed to Pilla’s color selections I thought his tonal technique was an overexaggeration for Xena’s bronze armor or Gabby’s golden hair due to lighting angles, but as the issues progressed, these elements became almost blinding at times; it almost made one believe there was no such chemical reaction as oxidation within Ancient Greece or her friend’s hair was spun of the purest gold, both tinted almost as if darkness could never to touch either, too scared if they dared to threaten these essential elements or any time the color yellow was involved. As such, when we often saw any of these gradients it detracts from everything else, at times even painfully so as the reader’s eyes adjust to this explosive sunburst upon which draws your focus to such colored components. Strangely this is the only time this abuse of color occurs within his palette, everything else is used in modicum to emphasize Cifuentes’ amazing artwork and bring out the best each can offer, but when we approach those strenuous moments, warning cannot come soon enough, and this is especially true within this finale. It seems everytime we see Sevdis she has some accessory made of the shiny metal: an armlet, bracer or worst yet, her imitation Xena armor seems chased with gold inlays which doubles the ridiculous effect and when the real Warrior Princess is involved, magnifying this metallic oddity even more so, such that we wonder if everyone in Dyme is so rich they can afford such precious adornments, even a simple doll in the holding room. You cannot but shake you head to these refinements, making one wonder if this was a simple civilization or if they were visited by King Midas himself and allowed to partake of his magical touch for these implausibly wealthy common people.
As this incarnation of the series comes to a marvelously effective ending, one cannot but wonder if we will see more of the Warrior Princess or if there will be a hiatus as we recover from the heartfelt story and implausible conclusion. The consideration for Xena’s story is fully felt as we watch in wondrous appreciation as to her visual portrayal, even if we are staggered by lapses in choices of color. The friendship of two heroic women is undeniable and propels the reader toward tales of timeless worth and moral value, but as we draw a close to this chapter, I cannot wait to see what happens next within a world of myths, monsters and people of questionable characters, both for good and ill will.
Series Grade: A
Rating: T+ (for Teens Plus)
Released By: Dynamite
Release Date: November 21, 2018