Action. If there were a genre that best describes XCT: Xtreme Champion Tournament (written by Shaun Pauletand Brendan Halyday, pencils by Jerry Gaylord, inks by Penelope Gaylord, letters by Optic Pop, colors by Wilson Go, and published by Comics2Movies), that would be it. Of course, you’d expect action from a comic whose premise is that, in the near future, historical figures are cloned and forced to fight against each other in an arena. The hero of this story is, naturally, Spartacus, the resurrected Roman gladiator, and he uses some brawn but mostly brains to defeat enemies much tougher and stronger than he is. I recently read #0 through #4 of this series and thoroughly enjoyed them.
If you’re like me, though, and you’re not easily swayed by action on its own, you’re also in luck. The series organically adds more characters as Spartacus makes allies and enemies in the arena scene, and we learn more about the world in which XCT takes place. It builds slowly, as you imagine a longer-form series would, with more details emerging, and the consequences of this society’s inhumane treatment of clones become clear. These characters begin to become shaped by events, and we get a sense of who they really are underneath all the gladiating.
The art from the talented team suits the tale perfectly, in a style that would be home in any action-packed superhero comic from The Big Two.
It isn’t a perfect comic, but none is. There were punctuation errors and I’m still not entirely sure why the clones of historical figures remember the lives of their unwilling DNA donors, including death. But the latter is integral to the plot so I guess it couldn’t be avoided. There are also ads spread throughout the book. This isn’t a criticism so much as it’s common in mainstream comics, but I suppose I’ve gotten spoiled with so many indies either not having them or pushing them all to the back.
In short, there’s action in XCT, but there’s also real character development; an engaging story; a detailed, internally consistent world; and superb artwork.