Princeless: The Pirate Princess #1

Princeless: The Pirate Princess #1
Written by Jeremy Whitley
Illustrated by Rosy Higgins and Ted Brandt
Action Lab Entertainment

Princeless: The Pirate Princess #1 is the first story in a new arc of the highly successful Princeless series from Action Lab Entertainment.  This issue is a terrific introduction to the series, and a great, kid-appropriate read. It's full of fun, dramatic moments and good-natured humor, all of which is depicted with bright, dynamic art. It also continues the Princeless commitment to showing the ways in which girls can be heroes, and don't need anyone (certainly not a prince or knight) to save them.  

The first two volumes of the story tell the tale of Princess Adrienne Ashe, whose father had locked her and her sisters up in towers throughout his kingdom (Ashland). In those stories, Princess Adrienne gains mastery over her dragon, and sets out to free her sisters, picking up a new friend (a dwarf named Bedelia who's very resourceful with a big hammer).  Princeless: The Pirate Princess #1 introduces the readers to a new character, Raven Xingtao, also locked in a tower by an overprotective father. She's also been known as the Black Arrow, and her father is the Pirate King. She joins Adrienne and Bedelia, and fun and action and (kid-friendly) fighting ensues. 

Because this is a comic targeted for kids, and at least in part towards young girls, I've brought in 2 additional reviewers for this issue - my daughters, ages 9 and 6. I'm happy to report that they thought this issue was awesome. They both loved the humor of the issue, thought the art was great and fun and exciting, and my older daughter in particular was appreciative of the fact that this comic is, in her words, "not sexist."

She's right. Princeless: The Pirate Princess tells an engaging story in which the girls are the heroes of the book, overcoming pirates and, more formidably, sexism (seriously, do not suggest to Adrienne that she has no business wearing armor). They do the rescuing, the dueling and the escaping, and it's also nice to see a strong model for female friendship, as they each work well together and use their skills and strengths to make a formidable team. Moreover, it's nice to see the racial diversity in this book that's simply part of the story; every kid should get to see heroes that look like them represented. Whitley does a great job making each of these characters interesting and likable in a short amount of time, along with highlighting their distinct personalities. He's also just a funny writer, and knows how to write an entertaining sequence without going to mean-spirited humor.

The girls also were right to praise the art, as this is really excellent work. I'm not familiar with Higgins and Brandt, but they use a style here that looks and feels a lot like old-fashioned Disney animation. It's a clean, uncluttered style, with bright, flat colors, that puts a lot of emphasis on expression and action. Faces and bodies are handled in a highly expressive, slightly exaggerated style, and backgrounds vary in the amount of detail.  The artists sometimes use simple color backgrounds, particularly in action sequences, in order to highlight speed or motion. There's some really skillful sequential work in this issue as a general matter, and particularly on action sequences (where the art team shows a real sense of wit and style), from Raven swinging out of the tower shooting arrows, to a frenetic chase sequence through a restaurant that displays a real sense of motion.

This is a strong start to the new arc. Even if you or the kids in your life haven't read the prior arcs of Princeless*, I'd highly recommend picking up Princeless: The Pirate Princess #1.

* Those are worth picking up as well.