COMIC REVIEW: Princeless Vol.1 (Deluxe HC ed.)

Imagine a princess who rescues herself. Stuff the Prince, and stuff the parents who locked her up in the tower ‘for her own good.’ This isn’t an entirely new concept, of course. We’ve become familiar with the trope over recent years with projects like Tangled and Shrek Forever After, but that doesn’t mean you should roll your eyes and move on. Princeless is more than feminist idealism; it’s about self-identification and self-direction in the face of whatever box society puts you in. Race, class, gender, sexuality – it’s all applicable. It’s empowering stuff; a breath of fresh air for a generation drowning in apathy. (Mine, in case you’re wondering. I’ve got a feeling my daughter’s will storm out there and kick some butt.) This ‘all-ages’ comic from Action Lab might appeal to any one of you but, by tone and content, I’d say it was targeted more at the child rather than their parent. In light of this I’ve roped my daughter in to help me give a balanced review. Catch up with us both after the jump.

Dion: So, back to the tower and the Princess. Adrienne is her name. She’s been locked in her tower at age 16 because that’s what you do with Princesses. The traditional logic runs that only the strongest and bravest Prince will be able to defeat the guardian and rescue her, ensuring a worthy heir to the kingdom. Adrienne has her own ideas about what she wants to do with her life, though, and it certainly doesn’t involve hanging around waiting for some yob to kill Sparky (her loveable dragon). There’s only one thing for it! ‘Save Yourself’ is the title of this first volume, and it doubles as a mission statement for anyone reading the comic. You think you’ve got problems? Do something about it. Adrienne certainly does, escaping on dragon-back in the very first issue. From that point on she is dedicated to rescuing her sisters from their own towers, and having as much fun possible in the mean time. First up though, she needs some proper armour.

Summer: Princeless is about a girl who doesn’t want to marry a stupid Prince, she wants to go off and have adventures and fly on her dragon and have fun. She wants to rescue all her sisters so they can can have fun lives too.

Dion: I have to say, I loved the main character. Adrienne has real spark. She’s witty, intelligent, angry, and has a real no-nonsense attitude about her. Many children falling short of societal expectation feel crushed by it before they’ve had a chance to shine. Not Adrienne. She knows that story-book princesses look and act a certain way, and that she doesn’t fit that mould. She’s black for one thing, practically-minded for another, and she kicks absolute arse with her fighting skills. She’s a brilliant role-model because (like Agent Carter) she knows her own value. It’s society that needs to change, and she aims to make it do just that. Along the way she meets up with Bedelia Smith, daughter of the dwarven armourer. He’s a drunken disgrace these days, so she’s had to pick up a lot of the slack in the workshop. (Shh, don’t tell anyone, though.) She is an absolute hoot. Whilst not quite the natural rebel that Adrienne is, she soon sees the appeal of throwing off the grey shackles of normality. Her ruddy great hammer helps. The two of them make a cracking double act, forming a friendship that feels naturalistic and genuine. Last up is Sparky the dragon. I’m impressed by how much personality the creators have managed to give her, given she does not have dialogue as such, but I’m not a fan of the character design. It’s a little too She-Ra for my tastes.

Summer: I really liked all of the girls. They didn’t let anybody push them around and they did what they wanted. They were brave and funny, and they were really, really good at fighting. I loved Adrienne’s relationship with Sparky. She was so cute! Like a big puppy. And it was funny when things went a bit wrong. Bedelia was really funny too. I loved it when she was making the armour. She looked cool. And she was a dwarf – well, a half-dwarf. She had nice hair, and she did crazy expressions. The artwork was very good.

Dion: Yeah, the artwork was okay. It’s odd, actually. In some ways the art was ‘better’ than in Dungeon Fun (another book we’ve read recently, and absolutely ADORED) in terms of complexity and nuance, but I was more prepared to just go with the offbeat style of Dungeon Fun. Summer’s right about the expressions, though. Mia Goodwin has a real eye for dramatising each character’s thoughts across a broad spectrum. It’s a colourful book. Maybe a little cutesy in places, but she knows how to use shadow to good effect. There a good variation in panel layouts to keep things interesting, tinker with time, and showcase the dramatic bits, though some lessons could be learned in creating a natural flow for the dialogue boxes. There were a few pages where we had to go re-read them because the conversation didn’t seem to make sense.

Summer: I don’t know what I can add about the art. I liked it. It looked like they were really moving.

Dion: So, this is the Deluxe Hard Cover. For collectors, I guess. I only had the PDF so I can’t tell you about thickness of the volume, quality of paper or anything like that. Contents-wise, you get the first four-part story arc; four one-shots (all written by series creator Jeremy Whitley, and neatly filling in gaps in the back-story) and a cross-over comic with Skullkickers, written by Jim Zub. There are sketch pages scattered throughout, which Summer and I enjoyed pouring over. It’s really great to show a child that comics don’t just appear fully formed, that there’s a creative process like any other art form that starts scratchy and loose before being tightened up. Finally, you get the full range of cover pages and a smattering of pin-ups from celebrity fans. I’m not sure I would fork out for the hard-cover myself because, enjoyable and worthy though it was, it didn’t feel like it was a comic ‘for me.’ On the other hand, my daughter is demanding to read the next book and wants to know when she can have a copy she can hold in her hands and take to her school and show her friends – so what the heck do I know?

Summer: Stop talking, daddy. Just tell them to buy the book. (Daddy.., if they don’t want it can I have their copy?)

GS Blogger: Dion Winton-Polak

Guest Blogger: Summer Winton

GS Rating: Dion 3.5/5   Summer 4.5/5   (average 4/5)

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