Writer: Keith Champagne
Artists: Noah Salonga, Chris Garcia(c)
A spacecraft crashes in the ancient Greece of Xena. Xena's discovery of the ship leads to misunderstandings and a hunt triggered by the honor of an alien species. Keith Champagne, known more for his inking ability, fashions a gripping story that's as sharp as Xena's chakram.
Champagne takes advantage of the television series’ tone to give meat to the tale. The bare bones of the story could have been used for any character, but Champagne makes the tale intrinsic to Xena.
The philosophy of the story is one of atonement, which is a fundamental theme in Xena, Warrior Princess. Xena thinks like a warrior, but Champagne also shows her vulnerability in her concern for Gabrielle. He furthermore expands on Xena’s wandering to give her a focus. He makes Xena and Gabrielle not just warriors or do-gooders but also explorers, paralleling the aliens.
There are no easy outs for Xena, and there are no villains in the story. Instead, Xena fights a creature with a different culture than her own and one that demands her death for her past deeds. The creature is not evil. It's doing what it believes is right, and an observer to the creature’s behavior would not attribute malevolence to its actions. Xena sympathizes with the beast, but she must defend herself, else she and more importantly Gabrielle's life will be forfeit.
Champagne doesn't just stitch together a tense, exciting plot aided by the suspenseful timing of Noah Salonga. He displays an understanding of the characters. He gives credible insight as to what makes them tick, and he touches upon Xena's relationship with Gabrielle. The dialogue he scrolls through the panels is nothing short of brilliant and apt for Xena and Gabrielle.
While it's now taken for granted that Xena and Gabrielle were lovers, Champagne and Salonga stay within the period of the heroes’ lives. They engender subtext through their choices of "camera" angles and the depiction of Xena's and Gabrielle's closeness, as well as the caring the two heroes show for each other.
Salonga's artwork consists of stunning cinematography depicting two proportionate female fighters and imaginative aliens--having a few visual cues to the Predator. The backdrops are rich in detail and expression. The quiet scenes are elegantly portrayed. The fight scenes are electrifying and also appropriately poignant due to the unfortunate situation.
The Xena Annual is a must for all Xenophiles and for those who like a little thrill.
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