Xena Annual #1
Beware of SPOILERS!
I have to be honest: I smirk every time I look at this issue. Like any Dynamite book, this one has multiple covers. Comic Vine shows Cover A & C, but the one I have is Cover B, by Noah Salonga. It was the image that originally caught my eye in the original solicitation, in Previews. The reason it caught my eye is because to me, it shows Xena grappling with an alien that looks very much like a Predator. So I ordered it, read it, and remain convinced that this annual was a rework of a Xena vs. Predator crossover that for some reason was nixed.
I speculate that the artwork, which is great, was already done, and was tweaked for what became this annual - otherwise, why draw an alien that looks so similar to a Predator? As it is, the creative team for the annual is not the creative team for the series. The solicitation, which can be seen on CV, says that the regular team is taking "a one issue break."
It's an idea I cannot get out of my head, and every time I read it, I marvel at how things were tweaked to make it original. Maybe I'm wrong - it does happen. Maybe the story was original all along, but the alien is just a derivative parallel of Predator. Whatever the case, it has all the earmarks of a Predator story.
Xena and Gabrielle are in a desert (a hot climate) and an alien ship crash lands. Xena investigates, finds a fatally wounded alien, and uses her sword to put him out of his misery. The alien's mate sees this, and tracks Xena down to have her revenge. She could have killed Xena and Gabrielle in their sleep at one point, but instead waited until they were armed to fight them (another Predator-ism). There's of course a language barrier, but the writer found a pretty cool way to get around that, and to even the odds between Xena and the technologically superior alien.
All in all, this issue was one danged fun romp, and is the type of story worthy of being called an annual. For the rating, I'm giving this issue a high mark of 4 stars, detracting only one star, because I cannot get through it without thinking that it was supposed to be Xena vs. Predator. Very cool story. Real shame that it wasn't an official crossover.