Grim_Noir Takes To The High Seas With Raven: The Pirate Princess & Crew

RAVEN TPP Book 2

Title: Princeless – Raven: The Pirate Princess, Book One and …Book Two

Writer: Jeremy Whitley

Pencils: Rosy Higgins

Layouts/Inks: Ted Brandt

Colors: William Blankenship

Letterer: Justin Birch

Editor: Alicia Whitley

Published by Action Lab Entertainment

Reviewed by Grim_Noir

While exploring the fantasy world of Jeremy Whitley’s Princeless, pirate heroines were the last thing I expected to latch onto. Nonetheless, I find myself loving the spinoff series, Princeless – Raven: The Pirate Princess, even more than the main series (even though I enjoy the main series immensely).

Having tween-aged nieces who are into the TV show Once Upon A Time and the manga Fairy Tail, ol’ Uncle Grim’s ears perked up when he heard The Black Tribbles talking up (then) fledgling comic book publishing group Action Lab Entertainment and Princeless, in particular.

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Princeless is the story of an Afro-Anglo princess, Adrienne, who frees herself from the tower where her smothering father, King Ashe, has placed her. He believes only the most daring prince can save Adrienne from her dragon-guarded tower and be worthy to marry her. Trouble is, Adrienne doesn’t want to get married and Sparky, the dragon guarding her tower, has no desire to get skewered by some random prince errant. So off they go, to free Adrienne’s six older sisters from their towers; having adventures and gathering allies along the way.

One of those adventures involves freeing Raven Xingtao, daughter of the self-styled Pirate King. Raven is descended from a long line of female pirate leaders and was intended to inherit the crew and pirate empire of her father. However, her two brothers had a very different idea: They convince their father that piracy is manly work and that the daughter of a king really should be wed to the prince who is capable of freeing her from a tower.

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Now, Raven has her freedom, a ship, a mad-on against her father and a desire for Kill Bill-style revenge on her brothers. The only thing slowing her down is a lack of a crew. So Princeless – Raven: The Pirate Princess, Book One finds her operating out of Cookie’s Tavern, a business owned by her father’s former cook. Without her previous street-cred (ocean-cred?), Raven is finding it difficult to find a crewman who isn’t interested in ogling her. Until she meets Katie King. Katie is a tall, muscular woman of military bearing who has been looking for a captain she can respect. Together, Raven and Katie assemble a female crew of misfits to take to the high seas.

Princeless – Raven: The Pirate Princess, Book Two picks up with Raven struggling to get two dozen diverse ladies trained as sailors and pirates. This includes Sunshine, the half-elf pickpocket, and the mapmaker/navigator Ximena (a former pirate hostage who’s only on board only to make sure Raven’s father goes to jail). Complicating things are the very capable deaf girl, Cid, and Cookie’s chemist daughter, Jay, who has managed to get herself charged with witchcraft.

Characterization is definitely writer Whitley’s hallmark: In a very short time, he manages to give us the hopes, strengths and conflicts among these women. Combined with a certain Whedonesque geeky humor, these ladies quickly win a reader over. So, when they are arrive at a place of assumed sanctuary and things get very dicey very quickly, you really care about who lives and who dies. While Katie is obviously the rock of this crew, who else steps up their game, and how they do, is the essence of Book Two.

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The art team of penciller Rosy Higgins and layout artist & inker Ted Brandt work in tandem to give life and motion to every panel. Combined with colorist William Blankenship’s almost watercolored effects, the mojo of this book is nearly movie-like. This is a team that should never be broken up. I’m a guy who looks for facial expressions that don’t look too cartoon-y nor over-the-top. There are panels in this series where I swear if I looked away and looked back quickly, I could catch the characters breathing.

There is currently an internet flame war raging between aging comic book neck beards and social justice brohs (neither of whom are thriteen year-old girls) about the recent practice of changing the gender of established heroes to entice more female readership. “Why ya gotta mess with my favorite hero?” starts the complainer, “Why can’t you just make a new female hero?” “Because no one takes a chance on a new heroine,” comes the response. And maybe reviewers are partially to blame for this stalemate. The old-school big guns often tend to steal a lion’s share of the spotlight for the general public and if we don’t point out the new stuff that deserves more attention, who will? So let me say clearly and with no hesitation, Princeless – Raven: The Pirate Princess, Book One is a cheap ten dollar ticket to something that deserves to be much, much bigger. Even better, if you like what you’ve read, Book Two is out now and the third collection will be out at the year’s end.

Ultimately, while Princeless – Raven: The Pirate Princess is a spin-off book, it has care and attention from the same writer/creator as its parent series. Whitley is the father of a daughter and both series have a “Sisters-Are-Doing-It-For-Themselves”-vibe. However, …Raven… is clearly intended for a slightly older crowd. Its themes of teamwork and girl power may appear very Bend It Like Beckham with pirates (and there are elements of that), but it reminds me even more of the X-Men: As Raven begins to show them how their skills and knowledge can help others, it feels a lot like Emma Frost showing mutants how they should not be afraid of their potential. When Cid and Jay team-up to create a battle plan against an overwhelming opposing force, I got the same emotional high as the first time I saw Colossus and Wolverine perform a “Fastball Special.”

RAVEN TPP Book 1

 

Ol' Grim Hisself

* GRIM_NOIR is convinced that the internet is a figment of his imagination. Please comment below and/or follow @Grim_Noir on Twitter or Friend on Good Reads or Facebook to end his self-delusions.

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