Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Review - Ladycastle #1 (@boomstudios)


"Once upon a time, a princess slept in a tower..."

The damsel in distress is a notion that's been prevalent in media going as far as back as fairy tales themselves. That stereotype typically brings with it a lot of preconceived notions that could probably stand to be thrown out the window at this point. Going out the window with them is the princess in Ladycastle #1 from BOOM! Studios. The issue is written by Delilah S. Dawson, illustrated by Ashley A. Woods and lettered by Jim Campbell.

When King Mancastle and his mighty vassals ride off on crusade, the women left behind are not at all put out-that's a lot less armor polishing for them to do. Of course, when the men get themselves eaten by a dragon and leave a curse that attracts monsters to the castle...well, the women take umbrage with that. Now the blacksmith's wife Merinor is King, Princess Aeve is the Captain, and the only remaining (and least capable) knight Sir Riddick is tasked with teaching the ladies of the castle how to fight, defend, build, and do all manner of noisy things the men had been doing while the women assumed they were just drunk.

Dawson's take on the world in Ladycastle #1 is one that eschews the historic, male-dominated world for one that features empowered women running things. All of the characters in the issue each have a role that corresponds to a job more or less and Dawson even manages to subvert some stereotypes in her characters. Princess Aeve for instance wants to be more than just a princess trapped in a tower and Dawson gives her plenty of opportunity to do so by the end of the issue. The entire concept isn't exactly anything new--Action Lab's Princeless series has tackled the notion of a princess being anything but for a while now--and Dawson does well to give the book enough individuality in its characters so that it feels fresh. A good chunk of the dialogue is offered in song, adding a musical flair to the proceedings that gives it more of an upbeat mentality.

Lending a visible buoyancy to the work is Woods' artwork which is bubbly. In fact, Woods should be commended on creating just a stunning and vibrant atmosphere for the story to unfold in. Her style taps into a medieval setting in a way that's slightly off-kilter and fuses a fairy tale illustrative approach with more mature characters throughout. Each of the characters are given a specific look by Woods that effectively captures their personalities, as well as making them memorable in their own ways. The bright colors lighten up the mood tremendously and emphasize a sense of optimism on the part of the characters that may not have always been present under the old regime.

Ladycastle #1 is one of a few titles uniquely positioned in its message and approach. Each of the main characters seek to prove themselves in ways that stress the importance of giving everyone an equal chance. Dawson's script is lighthearted in tone, but the subtext is pretty deep. Woods' artwork--in general--gives the book a tremendous feeling of accessibility to anyone and everyone. Ladycastle #1 is a fun first issue that delves into serious topics without getting too serious itself.

Ladycastle #1 is available now.

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