Last night, I wanted something to read but I wasn’t sure how much I wanted to invest in new characters, stories, and worlds so I pulled the Xena Warrior Princess Omnibus Volume 1 from my shelf. I’d recently rewatched all six seasons of Xena: Warrior Princess and was curious if the omnibus picked up after the end of the 90s television series and it actually did!
“Revisit Dynamite’s first foray into the fantasy of Xena: Warrior Princess, as we proudly collect Xena’s complete adventures from the 2006-2007 storylines, ‘Contest of Pantheons’ and ‘Dark Xena’, written by the bestselling comic book writer John Layman, plus the special ‘Strange Visitor’ story from Xena Annual #1! Join Xena and her swashbuckling allies Gabrielle, Joxer, and Autolycus as they become embroiled in a feud reaching all the way up to the heavens, courtesy of the machinations of the ruthless Callisto! Also, Gabrielle makes a request of the gods and learns a heart-wrenching lesson about the care with which one much make a wish … leading to an unsettling change in Xena herself.”
I admit that I enjoyed this far more than I thought I would and it’s exactly the read I was looking for last night. The art work was very well done and the characters stayed true to the tv series. Each part of the story had a beginning, middle, and end and each of the three stories came to a satisfactory conclusion.
One of the fun parts about the entire Xena story is how irreverent the story has been to any semblance of historical timelines and mythologies while still paying respect to the source material and other cultures. For example, Gabrielle goes searching for C’Thulon to help her bring Xena back, which is just after a story about the Greek gods and the Egyptian gods going to war over a stolen trinket, and then followed by a story with an encounter with predator-like aliens. Somehow, each of these stories is completely reasonable, for all realism says they shouldn’t make sense together.
I don’t really have a favorite of the three stories in this omnibus, as I believe all three were executed very well. I don’t know enough about actual mythology to form a more detailed opinion on the characterization of the Egyptian gods and Greek gods and their interactions and I certainly didn’t recognize many things mentioned about the Egyptian gods. The Greek gods still had the same level of pettiness shown in the tv show and were just as susceptible to arrogance and bad ideas while Xena and the rest definitely demonstrated their same level of outside-the-box problem solving.
I was definitely amused by Gabrielle’s changing her name to Evvielle in order to join dark Xena’s gang and Joxer did a much more realistic disguise as Jett than he did in the show, but he also didn’t have as much “screen time” in “Dark Xena”. I’m pretty impressed with Gabrielle’s ability to dye her hair, find a skimpy black leather outfit, and appropriate weapons in such a short amount of time.
I remember sitting in a literature class during my university undergraduate studies in the late 90s, listening to a discussion about feminism in modern media and Xena. As an asexual woman, I could think of no better fantasy world than adventuring with your best friend/partner. There was a woman in the class who advocated heavily for Xena and Gabrielle being in a lesbian/lover relationship and I just didn’t get it because that wasn’t part of my own fantasy. So I’m pretty torn about the way representation is handled in shows like Xena. Granted, Xena came out in the 1990s, which was a very different time for diversity and representation. Not that our current 2020s world is better, but it does have at least a few more options on diverse representation. Anyway. In some ways, I appreciate that Xena and Gabrielle’s relationship was never explicitly sexual because it helps appease my asexual heart, but at the same time, representation matters. Even in this omnibus from the 2006-2007 Xena comics, Gabrielle sacrifices everything to get Xena back because, “she’s her friend and she loves her.” While it’s clear how much Xena means to Gabrielle, the word “friend” isn’t really strong enough to convey everything they are to each other and even in 2006-2007, the writers steered away from using stronger language to describe their relationship.
So one the one hand, I’m glad the canon supports me believing Xena and Gabrielle are best friends/soulmates adventuring together but not sexually involved, but on the other hand, I understand how important obvious and irrefutable representation is and how crucial that representation would be for women in the women loving women (wlw) community.
Overall, I enjoyed this book and wish I had more of the omnibus graphic novels of Xena: Warrior Princess to read. I’d rate this as a 3 on my rating scale, as I am likely to read it again at some point in the future. I will probably see if some comic stores near me have any more and look at picking up some to continue reading the story.
Works Cited: Xena Warrior Princess Omnibus Volume 1, Dynamite Comics, 2017. Collection Cover Artist: Stjepan Sejic, Collection Design: Bill Tortolini; Contest of Pantheons writer: John Layman, Artist: Fabiano Neves, Colorists: Richard Isanove, Chris Garcia, Letterer: Simon Bowland; Dark Xena writer: John Layman, Artist: Noah Salonga, Colorists: Chris Garcia, Carlos Hernandez of Inlight Studio, Letterer: Simon Bowland; Strange Visitor writer: Keith Champagne, Artist: Noah Salonga, Colorist: Chris Garcia, Letterer: Simon Bowland.