A Writer's Commentary: Scott Lobdell talks Army of Darkness/Xena: Forever … and a Day #1, on sale now from Dynamite. Cover by Reilly Brown and interiors by Elliot Fernandez.
I figured it was important to start the story at Xena's lowest point ever. Her final battle, a dying Gabrielle in her arms… in part because it is so dramatic, but also because she is about to summon Ash Williams for help.
And let's be honest – if you are going to summon Ash Williams for help, things have to be pretty darn rock bottom! (I kid, Ash! I kid because I love!)
One of the fun things about coming so late to the Xena/Gabrielle party is there is no need for "nudge, nudge/wink,wink" allusions to their relationship. I get to call her "life partner", unambiguously.
PAGE TWO AND THREE
Yep. Things are bad.
Now, honestly, I would have preferred to use this two-page spread to establish that this village Xena was protecting has been devastated by these advancing hordes of Deadites – but the artist went in a different direction.
In this version, there is no indication of a village at all… and as a result there is no sense of place, a sense of a risk that is greater than a risk to, say, Xena and Gabrielle.
Also, while the coloring is gorgeous (this is the first time I'm seeing it) I have to say it adds to the "problem of place." Rather than a village under siege with Xena as its last defender, this scene makes it seem like the battle it taking place in the pits of Hell itself.
But that's the thing about writing, I'll be able to adjust later in the series to make things clearer. (Or, honestly, who knows – I may be forced to abandon the idea of an overwhelmed village entirely for this scene to make sense in the larger context of the series. That is one of the strengths of being fluid… you can go with the flow.)
PAGE FOUR AND FIVE
Still no context.
Again, I'm reading this for the first time. In black and white, it was easier to imagine background colors that would have made this feel like, say, it was outside, at night… on Earth. Our minds might have filled in the idea that this was an actual place under siege. But there's that red again.
Hmm… will definitely have to adjust my thinking re: village moving forward.
On panels three and four: To me this is the great joy of writing Xena. Sure, you have drama, you have gods and monsters and epic battles… but more importantly you have the character and comedy that exists between Xena and Gabrielle. I love these two – and more importantly I love them together.
And here all my frustration with the artist over a sense of place dissolves away – because he really sells the back room of the S-Mart. With this single panel, we learn so much about Ash at a glance:
We see his "world" is clearly much different than Xena's world. This feels like a place where any of us might have worked over the years – the worn down mirror, the graffiti, those damned Employee edicts posted everywhere. ("Wait! I gotta wash my hands?! Thank god that sign is there!")
I also love how happy Ash is here: he is master of his domain, employee of the year again. He doesn't see the graffiti or the worn mirror – he's only concerned with that smiling visage of male confidence beaming back at him!
Well, we get some shelves here for a sense of place – I am grateful for that!
(One of the things that always bother me in a comic is when we see a SIGN or a COMPUTER MONITOR that should have something written or projected on it and there is nothing there. ["Look at those security cameras! They show all those people sneaking over the fence!" Um, no. They don't. They're blank screens. We can see they are blank!"] Like, if we were watching a television show or a movie and someone walked down an aisle and there was a big blank sign there we would scratch our heads and wonder who puts up signs with no writing or images on them? I'll have to be more aware of this in future issues when I get the lettering pages back.)
There is Amber making an appearance! My muse! Eagle-eyed readers will recognize her from her cameo in IDW's Galaxy Quest comic! Uh oh – I hope I won't get sued now!
(In my defense, that Amber was making out with Tim Allen! This Amber is about to make out with Bruce Campbell. So, really, it has to be two different Ambers who just share the same name! Lawsuit avoided!)
There's that red background again – which (to me) feels too much like the red from the previous scene. If I saw this coloring before now I probably would have asked for an adjustment here.
Love this page. Everything about it. Elliot Fernandez really knocked it out of the park here – and the coloring is gorgeous!
While I probably could have gotten away without any reference to "enchanted summoning through time and space" because it is right there in the art… I didn't mind punching it a little with dialogue because of what Ash reveals about himself in the dialogue.
I love the fact that he's pretty damned nonchalant about it – it has happened so many times already that he's able to contrast the severity of this summoning against other times.
It is that "Okay. This happened" attitude of Ash's that I love. He takes the most outrageous things that happen to him in stride, but then gets so annoyed by some of the little things as we'll see in an a bit.
See? He doesn't like being poinked!
Time and space travel? Piece of cake.
But do not poink him — a man has to have his limits!
PAGE TEN AND ELEVEN
The character work on this two-page spread is pretty awesome.
(This is the same village that we saw was obliterated in the first scene – so that we got a sense here that we are only days away from the devastation about to befall these people, but… Okay, okay! I'll let it go!)
A man can only take so much poinking!
PAGE TWELVE AND THIRTEEN
And here it is! The moment we've been waiting for: Xena and Ash on the same page, in the same place and time!
I love how he is so excited to see her… even as she has no idea who the hell he is! (Ah, the fun of time travel stories!)
I love how she easily dispatches him. (Yes, he's one resourceful guy – but he's not a warrior woman, and he hasn't been fighting his entire life like Xena. He might be able to get a punch in here or there, sure, but he's not about to defeat Xena. C'mon!)
That said, I also love that Xena is content to hold him at bay with her sword and not run him through. She's the best!
Again, Elliot really shines here on this two-page splash.
The fury, the surprise, the determination… the fight to the draw that can leave the fans of both characters convinced their favorite would have won if the battle might go on a moment longer!
Who else but Gabrielle can get the two of them to focus with a single word?!
I love that seeing her in a state is enough to focus both Ash and Xena in a heartbeat – nothing is more important to either one of them in this moment.
I also love being able to write the last panel on this page, where we see that Gabrielle is the voice of reason between these two. (Let's face it – both Ash and Xena can get a little immature when defending their own honor. I think it is part of their charms.)
PAGE SEVENTEEN AND EIGHTEEN
I'll confess something here! If I could write an entire mini-series about these three sitting around a campfire, I would!
But who would read it besides me?
The sign-painters arrived while Ash was trapped in the past!
I'm a little confused by Ash's expression on the last panel of page nineteen. It feels like the tie gag is a reference to his previous attempt at love-making having been interrupted. (If I had noticed this expression earlier, I probably would have adjusted the dialogue to reflect his expression a little more.)
Maybe that's only distracting to me.
That was fun! Did you like it?!
This piece was provided to Bleeding Cool by Dynamite Entertainment.