Friday, October 19, 2012

Princeless Book One: Save Yourself by Jeremy Whitley, illustrated by M. Goodwin

I've been seeing reviews and mentions of this comic here and there for a while, and finally decided just to buy a copy of the first volume.

Princess Adrienne thinks the whole classic fairy tale, princess in a tower story is ridiculous. When it comes to her turn, she's certainly not going drugged dinner later, she's stuck in a tower, guarded by a dragon, listening to the crunching of tasty princes. However, when she discovers a sword under her bed and realizes she doesn't want her guardian dragon Sparky to die, she sets out to rescue her sisters and start a revolt. Along the way she'll deal with annoying armor, discover a secret benefactor, and run some dangerous risks before she's finally ready to set out on her quest.

The story is a funny take on all the classic fairy tale tropes and although this particular type of satire isn't new (sorry folks, people have been inverting fairy tale tropes for a long time but Disney still sells millions in Passive Princess) it's certainly funny. The dark-skinned heroine is a fresh touch and while there's plenty of stories about princesses deciding to rescue themselves, few of them scream insults out the window of their towers at the princes. Again, I can name several fantasy stories where the dragon is rescued, but most of them don't address the issue of how difficult it is to ride a dragon. The superhero jokes in the obligatory "why do warrior women get chain mail bikinis?" chapter are very funny as well. I thought making Adrienne's twin brother effeminate was annoyingly overdoing the trope-flipping and her father is a rather terrifying ogre of a man, but those are minor plot points.

The art is colorful and the characters have great expressions. As is clear from the back matter and the jokes, they're going for an anti-Disney and the art has a very cinematic feel. It's easy to see this as an animated feature. The additional story about the last luckless prince to attempt to rescue Adrienne is funny in a rather dark way, but there's several grim touches just below the surface throughout the comic and this fits in with those.

Verdict: Funny, definitely some fresh touches, and the art will appeal to kids. However, this is an independently produced comic and probably won't be available through most library vendors. It's a pretty small format paperback and has a very skinny gutter, losing the edges of most of the panels in the binding. I don't know if it was just a printer's error or if the whole run had this, but there's a major flaw, two vertical lines, running down the center of every page. I'm also a little doubtful about the "all ages" rating they've given themselves. Some of the chain mail costumes are extremely suggestive, many of the subtle parodies will pass over kids' heads, and there's quite a bit of underlying violence and terror. I enjoyed it, but I wouldn't purchase it for the library.

ISBN: 9781450798945; Published April 2012 by Action Lab/Firetower Studios; Purchased by myself (got my local comic shop to order it for me, but I'm sharing it with Sara the Librarian.

No comments: