Graphic Novel Review: Princeless – Raven: The Pirate Princess (vol.1)

Synopsis:

SET SAIL FOR REVENGE!

Fresh off her adventures in the pages of Princeless, Raven is ready to set out on her quest for revenge against her brothers. They’ve stolen everything that should be hers and now she’s going to get it back. But first, she needs a crew. Share the laughs, action, and adventure as Raven assembles the fearless crew of awesome ladies who will help her get her revenge.

First Thought:

The other week was the biggest sale of the year at our local comic book store, so along with grabbing our comics I decided to pick up a trade too. I had seen the Princeless series before but never from the beginning, and I’m quite lazy about tracking down trades. But I saw this one in the story and noticed that it was a first volume, so I thought that this was as good as anywhere too start. I like pirates and I like girl empowering comics, so what’s there to lose?

Overall Thoughts and Opinions:

I wasn’t expecting much from this volume, I try going into something new with little expectations, but I still felt disappointed by Raven the Pirate Princess. They advertised that this was going to be a funny action-packed adventure, but all the jokes fell flat or weren’t funny to begin with and the action jut ended up being little blips on the radar.

The characters felt artificial, like the author had a check list on their desk as they wrote the story. “Big” butch girl who dresses like a man, check. Punk chick with a face full of metal and a half shaved head, check. Father who is trying to raise his daughter right but in all the wrong ways and throws in weird sexist remarks that don’t fit his overall character, check. Young black girl how has to be stubborn and doesn’t care for before mentioned father, check. Tough Asian girl that has to do everything for herself, check. A bunch of women who generally hate men, check. A bunch of men that have no respect for women and don’t view them as equals, check. Check. Oh bloody check! Like it’s fine to have those characters, but I’ve that list or something similar in a lot of other stories at the moment and it gets so boring to read. The characters in Raven the Pirate Princess barely have personalities outside of their labels. I understand that this is just the first volume, but only one of those characters really grabbed me and the others just felt like old lukewarm water. The majority of the characters didn’t make me feel like I wanted to continue reading about their stories.

There actually wasn’t much in this volume that made me want to continue reading. The premise sounded pretty promising but nothing really happened in this volume. The most action is in the first chapter, the second chapter has an unnecessary bar fight, and the last chapter has a tense scene that gets solved with a stupid plan that just showed that all men are stupid. Really that was just the whole idea of this story, that men are all sexist and racist and total screw-ups and only women can do things right, which as a woman I found to be terribly boring and toxic to read. All my life the majority of the people who told me that I wasn’t pretty enough, that I was fat or needed to lose weight, or that I wasn’t smart enough to go into math and science were women. My father has always supported me and my education and has cheered me on from the beginning, making sure that I got my hands on anything that could help me learn more. My partner has gotten into arguments with women who have told me that I wasn’t good enough, he even defends me against myself from the internalized abuse that I learned from an early age. So I get defensive when books, comic, and other media portray all men to be careless, sexist, abusive jerks that can’t get anything right when it’s been older women and girls my own age who have been all those things to me. I think it’s great to get more stories out there about take charge women in generally male dominated roles, or stories in general that empower women. I draw the line when they start bashing men and create male characters from overblown stereotypes. It would’ve been fine if they had a few male characters like that, but almost every male character that was given dialogue was some sort of offensive caricature, and the few who weren’t still had some out of place dialogue that was sexist in some way. The characters they were portraying were just strawmen, and I have a hard time believing that out of an entire town there is only one good male character—come on! End Rant.

While reading this I also wasn’t sure who their audience was. Sure there’s media out there that can be enjoyed by all age groups, but that’s because it contains content that entertains all ages. This story is marketed to 9 year olds and up. Sure, what 9 year old wouldn’t like to read about an all-girl pirate crew? However, almost all of the “bold” statements made in this volume would go right over a kid’s head or they would misinterpret the messages. Yes, there are things like positive body image and it’s okay to be into classically ‘geeky/nerdy’ things, but all the heavy handed comments are things older people will understand and this volume is soaked in them. There’s no even balance, and there’s not even enough action to hold a lot of kids’ interests—I mean I had a hard time staying motivated till the end and it’s only three chapters.

Last thing, this story is marketed as a fantasy but I feel like it just barely made it into this category because it’s lower than the average low fantasy story. For instance, all the characters speak as if they belonged to our present day and about current ‘issues’. Now, in other fantasies these issues would be changed in a way to fit the setting so that they can be seen as similar to us but still not a direct parallel. In Raven the Pirate Princess, they don’t even bother making anything different in the slightest bit. Even some of the clothes and mannerisms are things we’d see in our everyday lives, like a few of the characters have distinctly plastic looking glasses that you can get from Walmart and one character looks exactly like a mother that would ask for a manager. I know that’s very nitpicky, but it’s also very distracting and makes the story and art look sloppy. And the only fantasy things mentioned in the story are a goofy dragon that we never meet and a character that claims to be half-elf, “I got all the good parts—height, speed, the looks—just without the pointy ears” *cough*Mary-Sue*cough-cough*. And overall the world building is just lazy. The story takes a lot of common day things for us, like board games, third-wave feminism, LARP, and D&D, and place it in a non-descript setting with a few kings somewhere that all lock their daughters in towers to be saved. Maybe it’s because I never found and read the first series, but the world in this story is lazily crafted and full of cardboard cut-outs.

Ratings:

Art: 3

The art was okay. It wasn’t the best but it was far from the worst. The characters and detailing are very simplistic in design, though at times there were some issues with continuity. I didn’t like some of the character designs because they looked too modern or really out of place for no reason. The detailing is very simple, showing only the idea of patterns and the like. Sometimes I felt like the settings were too bland and unimpressive, but that might just be for my taste. The coloring was okay, nothing gorgeous. A lot of the panels have a very red pallet, which didn’t always make sense because it didn’t match with the lighting and I felt like it washed out some of the characters at times. There are a few places were the coloring gets really sloppy with noticeable areas with color outside of the lines or distinct white areas that don’t belong. I will say that each character design is very unique, too bad they just couldn’t translate that into their personalities.

Story: 2

I did not care for this storyline and I have no real interest to read further. The premise of the story sounded promising, but after all the heavy-handed comments and the blatant man bashing I just can’t. I felt disgusted by a lot of the comments that were made, by both the male and female characters, but mostly I hated how the female characters acted. The dialogue was terrible; there were times that the characters didn’t need to speak and other times when it just sounded too campy and fake. There was one character that I liked above all the others, but I doubt she’ll get much panel time in this story. The humor fell flat for me, I don’t even think that I laughed once, and the action was just boring and full of unnecessary dialogue.

Overall: 2

I’d recommend this story to anyone who likes the more recent waves of feminism or who want a story that has a sprinkling of fantasy. I would also recommend this to anyone who wants a diverse cast, the diversity here is pretty good though completely one-sided. Some kids may enjoy Raven the Pirate Princess, but I think the bigger fan base will be of the high school-college ages. If you’re a fan of fantasy don’t pick this up, you’ll be disappointed. As for me, if I find the next volume at a tremendous discounted price I might pick it up, otherwise this wasn’t worth my money.

Details:

Title: Princeless-Raven: The Pirate Princess

Volume: 1- Captain Raven and the All-Girl Pirate Crew

Issue(s): 1-3

Publisher: Action Lab Entertainment

Writer(s): Jeremy Whitley

Illustrator: Rosy Higgins and Ted Brandt

Colors Rosy Higgins and Ted Brandt

Letters: Rosy Higgins and Ted Brandt

Released Date: January 26th, 2016

Pages: 128

Genre(s): Young Adult, Fantasy (loosely), Comedy, Action/Adventure

 

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