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Xena and Ash: An unusual partnership

"This is a story about an idea. An idea while pretty good to begin with . . . went horribly, horribly wrong."

"This is a story about an idea. An idea while pretty good to begin with . . . went horribly, horribly wrong."

Thus says the narrator in "Xena/Army of Darkness: What . . . Again?!" and that statement could easily have summed up this book featuring one of the more unlikely team-ups you'll see.

It likely would have, if not for talented writers Brandon Jerwa and Elliott Serrano, who make the odd combination work.

Granted, their concoction is more like cotton candy than beef stew. The story, what there is of it, is basically an excuse to get these franchises together again (they co-starred in a previous miniseries). They seem to be more interested in hilarity rather than the horror aspects of the Ash Williams character and eschew Xena's bone-crunching tendencies in favor of a more campy approach.

However, Jerwa and Serrano make it work, despite one potentially fatal error.

That being the title of the book. It could easily have been "Ash Williams and Friends," since Xena - along with Gabrielle and Autolycus - often seem to just be tagging along. Ash gets the best lines, most memorable moments and the first two issues seem to take place on his home turf.

The first issue takes place in the character's beloved S-Mart and while there is some allusion to how Americans take their standard of living for granted - Xena and her friends react to having everything they need in one location instead of bartering and traveling from town to town - the setup's main purpose is to give Ash a chance to do his S-Mart Schtick.

The second issue finds our heroes transported into the middle of various literary classics. Since Ash is the only one who even knows what a book is, he again becomes the focal point of the story - and the works of Dickens and Poe will never be the same.

The most memorable scene is when the quirky quartet find their way to the land of Oz. Ash as Dorothy and Xena as Tin Man are priceless visuals. The best exchange of the entire series quickly follows as the heroes meet their literary doppelgangers and Ash hits the ever-innocent Dorothy with a vebal barrage that will likely leave her scarred for life.

While this book is not going to win any Eisners, it is a fun, entertaining read.


Speaking of franchises, it seems odd that with superheroes hotter than ever at the cineplex, Fox seems to have had the most popular comic book franchise stuck in neutral.

When the studio releases "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" next May, it will be three years since an X-film last appeared in theaters.

According to Variety, Fox is looking to finally strike while comic book movies are hot - and while they still have the rights. "X-Men" characters revert back to Marvel if pictures are not in development by 2012.

Fox is looking to finally take advantage of the army of characters at its disposal - and reduce the time between X-projects - by developing a multitude of spinoffs that they hope will launch a whole new nest of franchises.

"Wolverine" sequels are a given should the 2009 film prove a hit, as now appears likely. However, there are three other projects in the pipeline that are less of a sure thing.

They include: "X-Men: First Class," with a script penned by Josh Schwartz who created the teen-friendly TV shows "Gossip Girl" and "The O.C." The film will be based around the 2006 comic of the same name, that focuses on the young mutants enrolled at the Xavier Institute for Higher Learning. Books revolved around the Cyclops, Jean Grey, Angel, Iceman and Beast characters, which already have been featured in the three previous "X-Men" films.

"Magneto" is also in line for a solo film, which has David Goyer ("Batman Begins") attached to direct the origins story of the "X-Men" arch-villain (Ian Mckellen in the previous pics) and his relationship with Charles Xavier (previously played by Patrick Stewart). Both characters would be played by younger actors, given the earlier timeline in which the plot takes place.

"Deadpool," which would revolve around Ryan Reynolds' sarcastic mercenary in "Wolverine" is also on deck, pending audience reaction to the character in that film.

New 'Daredevil' on deck?

While the clock is ticking on those X-projects, Fox is trying to be careful not to rush them into production. Its superhero fare has been problematic of late. The last "X-Men" film, savaged by critics and fans, almost torpedoed that franchise; the "Fantastic Four" sequel did disappointing business and that franchise's future (as well as a "Silver Surfer" film) is now in limbo and "Daredevil" and "Elektra" are generally considered misfires, despite the former's healthy box-office.

Because of the potential seen from the grosses of the 2003 film, Fox is considering a relaunch of "Daredevil" with a new film, similar to what Marvel and Universal did with the Incredible Hulk this year.

Shazam! To screen?

One of DC's iconic characters looks ready to break out of film development hell.

The "Superman" sequel? The long-awaited "Wonder Woman" film? How about neither?

Variety has reported Warner Bros. has signed director Peter Segal ("Get Smart") and his production partner Michael Ewing to a three-year first-look deal at the studio. Segal has been attached to "Captain Marvel" for over two years.

It's been widely reported that the film will be an origin story for Captain Marvel, who gains the powers of the gods when he says the magic word "Shazam!" and that Dwayne (The Rock) Johnson is on board to play Black Adam, the similarly-powered nemesis of Captain Marvel. Given that Johnson starred in Segal's "Get Smart," his participation in the film continues to seem likely. *