Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Comic Review: Princeless: Raven the Pirate Princess #1

This was originally posted as a review for Word of the Nerd, a site I have just recently started writing for. Reposted here with slight modifications.
  •     Writer: Jeremy Whitley
  •     Pencils: Rosy Higgins
  •     Inks: Ted Brandt
  •     Colors: Rosy Higgins
  •     Letters: Ted Brandt
  •     Publisher: Action Lab Comics
Like with most first issues, I'm going into this blind: I don't know any of the members of the creative team, have read none of the Princeless series this spun out of, and I've never even read an Action Labs comic before. After finishing Princeless: Raven the Pirate Princess, I have a number of little problems with it, but despite those flaws, I liked the issue and want to read more.

The issue starts with explaining Raven's past quickly: her father was a pirate king, and she was the princess, set to become queen until her brothers took that away from her, because this world's pirates work like royalty. It feels like there is a slightly more involved backstory in the original series, but we don't need more than that to understand where she is at the start, with no money and no crew, just a ship she can barely keep together.

The story really starts when she goes into town to get a crew, food, or money to get a crew and food. In the process, Raven is robbed by Sunshine, who has almost as prominent a role as Raven does. The irony is that, right before heading into town, Raven muses about how many pockets she's going to have to pick to get money, then gets stolen from herself. While set up well by the plot, it runs into a problem with how it's portrayed visually. Specifically, Raven and Sunshine are both wearing heavy coats with their faces and hair covered when they run into each other. At first, it looks like Raven is pulling off the pickpocket, but she's the one getting taken instead, which was not at all clear until afterwards, taking away the impact of the scene and making it confusing.

Their encounter turns into a fight taking them across half the town. The fight is kind of oddly paced, moving in fits and starts, but the memorable moments tend to make up for that a bit. At one point, Raven crashes through a window and lands on a dinner table. The family is annoyed that she's in the way of them eating, not about the damage, since they live in a pirate town and that kind of thing happens all the time. In another scene, Raven crashes through a different window in front of two boys, who are playing with some toys. Raven lands, gets back up, and charges right back out the window, at which point the boys start fighting over who gets to play as the girl. I liked the second moment there a lot more, but in general the humor is made out of bizarre moments like that.

The really good part of the fight? Raven and Sunshine are a lot of fun. While they're trying to fight each other, they spend a lot of it verbally sparring more than physically fighting, and a good amount of time fighting together to keep from getting themselves killed by a mob with unclear origins. Through the fight, their personalities start to come out, and in a lot of ways, they're very similar. Both are very overconfident in themselves, and also too witty for their own good, but all of it comes from different places. You can read their backgrounds from their actions, showing enough to understand why these two are pretty similar but have such conflicting personalities.

At risk of being reductive, I can summarize the art in one word: bright. That might not seem like a lot to say, but I have read far too many indie comics that focus too much on dark and confusing art, but this is the polar opposite. Everything is very bright and crisp and clean, with the only moment of confusion coming from the mandates of the plot (see above, when Raven and Sunshine accidentally run into each other). It's not trying too hard, just trying to be clear and bright, and that's something I've come to admire.

Overall, I had a lot of fun with this comic, despite the flaws in it. It's worth looking at, and I'm interested to know where it's going in the future, which is all that I can ask for from a first issue.

If you'd like to see more, find this article and others like it at Word of the Nerd, and many thanks to them for allowing cross-posting like this. 

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