Ladycastle #1 opens up as a more punk rock take on the classic Rapunzel fairy tale with Princess Aeve singing semi-demonically while locked in the castle until her father, the hilariously named Mancastle, returns with a princely husband. Her kind of, sort of best friend is the black smith Merinor, who ends up becoming king when Mancastle and his men are cursed because they were to cheap to pay a wizard’s bridge toll, and EZ-Pass is millennia from being invented. Writer Delilah Dawson and artist Ashley Woods weave an enchanting tale of awesome haircuts, badass training montages, and female empowerment as BOOM! adds yet another fun all ages book to their stable.
Even though it features the sword fighting, armor, and all the trapping of knights and war, Ladycastle #1 is an unabashedly piece of utopian fiction. Dawson and Woods plot out a kind of ideal society with Merinor at the helm with everyone sharing equally in the fighting, food gathering, and other chores while the rank of knight is open to all the young women, not just the aristocracy. Later, in the issue, Dawson and Woods put their money where their mouth is and have Merinor and company take a more creative and symbiotic approach to in most comics or movies would be a big damn fight scene. This is where the character of Riddick comes in handy as he speaks or acts out fantasy tropes, which are instantly subverted in a feminist manner like Merinor wielding the magical sword because she works with weapons instead of the usual old knight deal or stops himself when he realizes how sexist the original code of chivalry was.
Ashley Woods brings a unique art style to Ladycastle that is part Legend of Korra, part hand drawn Disney animation with some twisted fantasy elements like Aeve turning into serpents or rocking out to the anarchy symbol in the opening “musical number”. She also gives the characters of Ladycastle a variety of body types, skin colors, and hairstyles, and it’s awesome in general to see a woman of color drawing a fantasy series when that genre is often dominated by white male power fantasies. To go with her diverse range of characters, glistening armor, and entertaining montages, Woods brings the trippiness with her color palettes as bright pinks and yellows pop up any time something magical or cursed appears.
Instead of going straight into picaresque adventures, like Princeless for example, Ladycastle #1 stays in the bounds of its world and explores what makes a good society. It’s like Plato’s Republic, but sub out the philosopher king patriarchy for a badass matriarchy. Plus there’s a dash of comedy and ye olde English from Delilah Dawson, some beautiful vistas from Ashley Woods, and Aeve and her sister-turned-squire Gwyneff have an adorably combative relationship. The comic is loads of fun, and I wish the real world were a lot more like Ladycastle.
Story: Delilah Dawson Art: Ashley Woods
Story: 8.0 Art: 8.0 Overall: 8.0 Recommendation: Buy
BOOM! Studios provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review