Tell me if you’ve heard this one before: A princess is trapped in a tower and guarded by a ferocious dragon. One day a brave prince comes to the tower, slays the dragon, saves the princess and everybody lives happily ever after. Now tell me if you’ve heard this one before: A princess is trapped in a tower and guarded by a ferocious dragon. The princess thinks this situation is a giant crock and is actually happy when her best friend/dragon routinely eats and scares off potential rescuers because she sure as hell doesn’t want to give them the satisfaction of rescuing her. So she decides to rescue herself and others in similar positions and take down the man that’s responsible for her imprisonment in the first place: Her father.
Here’s the thing: you probably have heard variations of both of them before. As much as the princess-in-the-tower story has become a standard of fairy tale fiction so has the princess saving herself become a standard. Luckily Princeless doesn’t need to rely on originality of plot because it can make tropes we have become familiar with from other stories and make them feel fresh with fantastic character work and fun expressive artwork.
Princeless follows Princess Adrienne, one of several princesses of the royal family of this particular mythical kingdom. We first meet her as a child. The writing is so strong that we can tell immediately that she is a character with a unique viewpoint. While hearing a traditional princess story from her mother, the young Adrienne can’t help but point out the numerous flaws in logic within the story and we see pretty quickly that although she might not be the only person to see something wrong with the system of sticking girls in towers alongside bloodthirsty beasts she is the only one to question it. This doesn’t stop hers from becoming a victim to this very system when she is a teenager and, as you can imagine, the fact that she fell for it causes her no lack of aggravation. Here’s where writer Jeremy Whitley plays it smart though, if Adrienne was simply a angry character, that by itself wouldn’t be very compelling. But she is also smart, tough, and determined to deal with the situation her way.
The characterizations don’t stop there as Princeless also has a fantastic supporting cast. There’s Adrienne’s supposedly ferocious dragon guardian, Sparks, who despite being a merciless slayer of princes actually has a very sweet relationship with Adrienne. The have clearly come to really care for one another during their indeterminate time with one another. The opposite of that relationship is Adrienne’s relationship with her father, the king. The king is a man who rules his subjects with an iron fist, perhaps not to dictator levels, but he is a man who believes that the world has a certain order to it and that order bends to his will. This is a man who has locked up all seven of his daughters because he believes that only a prince ruthless enough to slay a mythical beast and take a woman as his own will be worthy of taking his throne. He is of course plotting this when he isn’t routinely scolding his remaining children or telling them how useless they are. This isn’t to say that he doesn’t care. In the second issue there is a scene where he is informed that his daughter is dead and we see the cracks in his disposition begin to appear, but he soon recovers, less interested in showing his grief than evaluating how this reflects poorly on his strength. With this the book has created two leads that are direct opposites of one another but also incredibly compelling.
And we haven’t even spoken about the art yet. Princeless is illustrated by M. Goodwin who has an incredibly expressive style. A lot of the praise I just gave for the characterizations within this book would not be possible if it weren’t for Goodwin’s truly impressive line work. The way he conveys emotion with the characters is spot on. Comics are at their best when art and words work in harmony to make a cohesive whole and that’s definitely what’s being done here. Couple that with his stellar design of the more fantastical aspects of the book and you have a comic that is just good old fashioned comic book goodness.
If there is a complaint to be had its this: outside of the main cast that’s been introduced so far we don’t have a great sense of the rest of the characters that inhabit this world. Particularly Adrienne’s mother who so far has only served to throw out some small bits of exposition. This is a small complaint however as there have only been two issues so far and you can only do so much with a twenty-four page story. So as long as the creators continue to let the story and world grow at its own pace we’re going to get something very special.
TL;DR Princeless is a great all-ages comic with a great sense of humor that is well worth your time and money. So pick up some copies if you can, but if you don’t I can’t promise that you won’t become dragon food.
Princeless is written by Jeremy Whitley with art by M. Goodwin. It is published by Action Lab Entertainment and is a four issue limited (at the moment). Ask your local comic book shop to order them for you or purchase it digitally from Graphicly.
A review PDF of Princeless #1 was graciously provided to Spandexless by the author.