Review - Princeless #1

Not all fairy tales end happily ever after, just like not all princes save the princess. Princeless #1 is the first of a four-issue series written by Jeremy Whitley and illustrated by M. Goodwin (letters by Jung-Ha Kim and "Mr. Froggy" art by D. E. Belton). The series seeks to subvert the status quo of fairy tales on its head and, based on the first issue, it's off to a great start.

The book is being published by Action Lab Entertainment and Firetower Studios, a small press publisher run by Whiteley and a couple of artist partners. Action Lab is an up and coming independent press formed by a number of artists and writers who are looking for versatile properties. It will be available through Diamond and Action Lab is hoping to have a preview copy available for San Diego Comic Con. The book is set up to be a series of miniseries, four issues apiece; the first one will finish right about year's end and the next mini should start shortly thereafter.

Adrienne is a very precocious princess who, even as a child, realizes that fairy tales can be more fiction than fact. She's not convinced that a prince will rescue a princess in a tower and her opinion is validated when she's the princess in the tower. Not content with simply watching while her dragon Sparks makes meals of wave after wave of potential prince suitors she decides to venture out in search of her seven sisters. Her sisters also just so happen to be in a "princess in a tower" scenario.

Adrienne gets the bulk of the attention in the issue (and rightfully so), but there's also a few pages at the end focused on one of the princes who tried to save her. Just as Adrienne played her part as damsel in distress, the prince plays his part by attending Prince Charming school. It's a unique approach in which both Adrienne and the prince are sort of aware of their lots in life and are seeking to change them. A minor gripe is that this storyline feels tacked on at the end. When I hit that part of the issue I felt like I was reading a mini-story or something that wasn't supposed to be part of the main story.

The reader is also introduced briefly to Adrienne's father, the king. Beyond being a massive goliath of a man, he's fairly bland when it comes to characterization. His disdain for a less than masculine son and lack of knights worthy enough to be king (and marry her daughter) have made him ornery. It wouldn't surprise me if he has a change of heart and comes to accept his son as king when Adrienne frees her sisters.

The artwork fits the story pretty well and it feels somewhat cartoony in nature. Considering the story is a somewhat lighthearted take on the fairy tale genre the art manages not to overshadow the writing and take over the story. It complements it very well and has a style that will appeal to kids and adults (much like the story itself). You could easily see this being something Disney would put out as a bonus with whatever animated princess tale they've got out at the time.

The fairy tale about a blonde princess playing the part of damsel in distress locked in a tall tower protected by a dragon is pretty much timeless. We've always been taught that many suitors will try to rescue her, but she's ultimately waiting for her one true love to slay the dragon and take her hand in marriage. The story is rife with allegory and morality, meaning those little girls (Princess) that hear it grow up thinking that no matter what obstacle (dragon) is placed nothing will stop them from finding true love (Prince Charming).

Honestly though, how often does it work out that way? In Princeless #1, Adrienne is a princess that's not blond, not in distress and not content with the status quo. And that's what works most for it. Whitley's characterization of Adrienne as a no-nonsense, non-white princess is superb and comes across as more sass and unconventional than annoying. It's refreshing to find a work that takes a storied tale and let's the characters break the fourth wall in a sense in being aware of their plights.

Princeless #1 is a very tongue in cheek take on the classic fairy tale. It's got a certain feel to it that reminds me of Bonnie Lass from Michael Mayne. Check Princeless #1 out if you want something refreshing and lighthearted.