Every Friday I’ll review two books (usually graphic novels or manga). Today’s comic books feature women of power and legend, one which would make a good replacement for the movie Brave, and another that while kind of ridiculous, has a certain … appeal.
Writer and Artist – Ted Naifeh
Princess Ugg tells the tale of “bonny wee berserker” Ulga of Grimmeria as she travels down from the mountain into the village of Atraesca to attend a Princess academy. Ulga’s mother, who died after a battle against the snow giants of the mountain wished for a better life than only one of battle for her daughter. The people of Grimmeria have lived and died for hundreds of years apart from the world, riding mammoths and taking on great beasts, but war and death can only lead to more death, and Ulga’s mother wants more for her.
In some ways this is the typical story of a wild and primitive child entering into more civilized society and the things that both have to teach the other. She meets the typical product of the other side of the coin, a girl who is only used to her every whim being catered to and has nothing but destain for the ways of a wild barbarian. Yet even in this first volume these two start to have a grudging respect over equestrian matters and other things. And Ulga has some allies among the teachers who think their own leadership needs a touch of something new.
The dialog for Ulga can be a little difficult to decipher at first, with a basis in Scottish and typically accented words like “Mither” for Mother and so forth, but you get the hang of it pretty quickly, and some of the turns of phrase are really quite amusing. I don’t know the direction the overall series is going to take, but in some ways this is the book that Brave should have been. And that little monster hat is really quite adorable.
An imaginative and funny story that promises more to come. (Warning: While I think this might be appropriate for some kids 9+ it does contain nudity in places so maybe read it yourself first if you’re wary).
(5 stars | Highly Recommended)
Various Writers and Artists
Don’t kid yourself on this one. At least part of why anyone would read Red Sonya is the red-head in a chain-mail bikini. Even a collection like this one with some of the best female writers and artists in the business has more than a little eye-candy. That said, this collection is a great introduction to fans of this character new and old.
The framing story, written by current ongoing series writer Gail Simone (of Wonder Woman and Batgirl fame) involves a team of mercenaries hunting the “she-devil with a sword” after the murder of their prince. As they track her and encounter people along the way each tells the story of their encounter with the she-devil. This format allows for a wide variety of artistic styles and storytelling to be showcased, and on that basis alone it’s worth the read.
Some stories are more in the typical action-adventure vein, while others paint Sonya as either a seductress of a thief and a scoundrel. More than likely she is all of these things. Even the origin of the metal bikini is explored, and its obvious advantages in battle (at least against certain kinds of opponents).
My favorite of the bunch is a story told by a girl in a bar who was saved by Sonya. The artist shows the tale as it is told by the girl on the left, with significant embellishment, and what really happened on the right panel by panel. This really serves to call into question exactly the nature of the beast we’re dealing with and how much of a hero she is supposed to be.
There’s some violence and some rather gruesome character designs, but for fans of high-fantasy (and male fantasy) this isn’t a bad volume.
(4 stars | Just be honest with yourself)