Genre: Comic Book
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
Release Date: October 9th 2018
My Rating: 3 cups
Blurb (from Goodreads):
The path to redemption is never easy, and the journey of a warrior princess seeking to wash the blood of innocents from her hands is no exception. Xena travels to Athens, to plead for redemption in the temple of Eleos. But some things can never be forgiven and the shadows of past sins are long. Will Xena find redemption or betrayal waiting for her in the temple of the gods? The power, the passion, the danger... her courage would change the world. Xena: Warrior Princess.*Disclaimer: I received an eARC of this book from Dynamite Entertainment and Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not influence my rating or the content of my review in any way.
Growing up, Xena was my go-to TV show ever. It was THE show to watch every Sunday morning and I would watch it religiously. Now, I can honestly say it's still one of my favorite TV shows ever, so any chance I get to be reminded of those stories and characters I'll take it and see where it goes.
I really enjoyed the art in this comic book. The panels are very nice and not overly crowded with dialogue. The colors were also very vivid and the tones chosen matched the tone of the scenes they were depicting.
I also liked that the artist didn't try to create perfect portraits of the actresses from the show. Although I'd love nothing more than to see Lucy Lawless and Renee O'Connor back in their roles as Xena and Gabrielle, I do like the fact that the artist stayed true to their vision of the characters and not force a portrait-like drawing that likely would have taken me out of the story.
Sadly, it's the story that truly disappointed me. If you've watched the show, you probably remember a little bit about the details. If you've watched it countless times, you remember the smaller details. Well, Penance kind of felt like an alternate universe story, in which Gabrielle's costume looks like it did after she became an Amazon but without actually being an Amazon able to defend herself, in which she had never seen a cyclops, and Callisto was a villain capable of leading an army. I'm not mad about it, but I definitely wasn't a fan of where the author went with this story. I also wonder if the costume choice for Gabrielle was made by the author or by the artist, but either way that was the thing that bothered me the most. I feel like there was so much to explore with that title, and this story almost misses the point. I would have wanted to see Xena making the decision to change who she is, in the few moments before she hides her weapons and gives up her warrior clothes in the first few seconds of the pilot episodes. I would have wanted to see Gabrielle in the first few months after the end of the show, when Xena died. Why Ares started to hunt down Xena in the present time and how he once again became the amoral god of war that he was in the earlier seasons. A reimagining of how Xena and Gabrielle met and how Xena found out about Callisto was definitely not what I was imagining when I started reading this book.
That being said, if I look at the story on its own and try really hard to forget about the show, and imagine that this is the very first time Xena appeared in the world, then the story is pretty compelling and interesting. There's a woman who lost her soul and is trying to make up for her past mistakes, a young girl in search of a different life, and a cunning villain that is looking for revenge. You can see Xena is a woman tormented by her past, but I think this torment is still in the early stage, as she doesn't truly know what to do in order to make up for what she did in the past. Then you have the innocent Gabrielle, a bard who left home in order to escape the future that was awaiting her. Gabrielle was a little bit too annoying for my taste, and her clumsiness was not endearing, more like irritating. I did chuckle a few times, but all in all I can't say I can see Xena and Gabrielle be friends forever. Callisto was truly the most interesting point of the story in my opinion. Lately I've been very interested in seeing the villain's side of the story, so I was anxiously waiting to see a little bit more of Callisto's background, but it wasn't explored as much as I wanted it to be.
When I saw this book on Netgalley I truly was expecting something great, something new, an exploration of a hidden corner in Xena's mind, a new story within the universe. While the story was interesting, it wasn't what I had hoped for and the nerd in me was bothered by the misuse of some of the finer details of the universe.