Xena 2016 #2 finds Xena and Gabrielle in the Harpies’camp, enduring a somewhat dubious hospitality. The Romans have been framing the Harpies indiscriminate killers in order to turn the villages toward Rome. The Harpies could use Xena’s help in countering this—but many of them have their own reasons for being angry with Xena and or Gabrielle, who left unfinished business behind them when they went into their enchanted sleep and then deprived some people of their protectors when they killed various gods. In addition, the seers in camp are having visions of disaster, apparently centering around Xena.
Xena 2016 is off to an uncertain start. On the plus side, it is also always welcome to see women working together, and it looks like this series is going to provide multiple relationships between the women and multiple shades of relationship, not just friendship and enmity but wary acceptance and alliance. Hopefully, this will be developed as the story continues.
On the not as welcome side, there is a lot of infodumping here, and a rapid introduction of new characters that are hard to track. Nine different Harpies are introduced in one page, each with a brief biography, and there are further introductions in the camp. A large chunk of the twenty-five years between Xena and Gabrielle’s departure and return has to be gotten through quickly. With so many new characters and history, the reader is left choosing between shrugging and accepting their anonymity until such time as they become memorable or constantly turning back to the introductory page to figure out which one is which. It is also hard to tell how much attention to pay to these individuals: Are they going to be central to the story, or are Xena and Gabrielle going to leave them behind?
Ariel Medel’s art tells the story well enough, keeping the fight scenes busy. Unfortunately, the women have similarly shaped faces and bodies, though differently colored and coiffed hair does help in telling them apart. Close-up and full-face images are fine, three-quarter profiles tend to be just a little off, and distance views often result in showing the facial features, particularly the mouths, out of proportion.
Genevieve Valentine is an amazing novelist, and this is not her first comic book work, so it is easy to hope that the story will straighten itself out as it moves along. As it is, Xena 2016 #2 is quite readable, but so far not putting the series into “must have” territory.