Ladycastle #1

Ladycastle #1 (of 4)

Writer: Delilah S. Dawson
Artist: Ashley A. Woods
: Jim Campbell
Editor: Sierra Hahn
Publisher: BOOM! Studios

A review by Amelia Wellman

Ladycastle #1 BOOM! Studios is one of, if not flat out, my favourite comic book publishers. Their newest series only continues to cement them in my mind as a great company doing great things. The latest great thing? BOOM! is giving ladies some fantasy comic due with Ladycastle #1, a four issue comic run about a castle built, maintained, and defended by women!

When King Mancastle and all the men of his castle ride off on a crusade, the women left behind are not at all put out. That’s a lot less armour polishing for them to do after all. Of course, when the men get themselves eaten by a dragon and leave a curse that attracts monsters to the castle, the women are left to deal with it. Now the blacksmith’s wife Merinor is King, long imprisoned Princess Aeve is the Captain of the army, and the only remaining (and least capable) knight, Sir Riddick, is tasked with teaching the ladies of the castle how to fight, defend, and build.

I was fully behind Ladycastle #1 as soon as princess Aeve sang her obligatory princess song but filled it with lyrics of how she screams and shouts in doubt and dreams of anarchy. I’d swear my fealty to this princess any day! The opening sequence, which explains that Aeve is locked in a tower to keep her pure for a prince that her father is searching for, has a Tangled sort of feel. But whereas Rapunzel was still pretty happy-go-lucky as a prisoner of her tower, Aeve seems a little unhinged and a lot bitter after her extended stay locked away from everyone.

Her little sister, Princess Gwyneff, is bitter too. As long as Aeve refuses to marry, their father has to be away on prince finding crusades. You see her frustrations and anger come out as aggression towards her older sister. It’s interesting that both are being so selfish but in different ways. Though personally, I feel a lot more for Aeve than I do for Gwyneff, who so far has comes off as a complete brat. I understand where she’s coming from, and there’s no doubt an emotional reveal and then touching reconciliation coming between her and Aeve, but I don’t like her.

Strangely enough, I do like how I don’t like her. Having each character have faults and attitudes makes them seem more real. And if the polarizing sisters aren’t your cup of tea, there’s Merinor: blacksmith’s wife turned King of Mancastle Ladycastle. The voice of reason within all the royal family drama, Merinor is strong, smart, drawn out of the usual female comic model, appointed king by the Lady of the Lake herself, and a black woman! I love to see representation, especially in fantasy where literally anything goes!

My favourite part of the narrative is definitely the end. The women of Ladycastle have to fight off a swarm of monsters that had been attracted to the castle because of the curse. Instead of just killing everything, like the one surviving man says to do, Aeve stops to recall some information she has on the monster. By approaching the situation peacefully and with a little thought beyond “kill that which scares me”, the problem is solved without death, violence, and they now have some handy lanterns in a mutually agreeable truce! This idea of the women looking for and finding new solutions to the problems that men have solved one way and only one way in the past, is brilliant. It shows that ideas can come from anyone and that maybe tradition shouldn’t be tradition if it’s outdated or harmful.

The art of Ladycastle #1 is both drawn and coloured by Ashley Woods and is a very colourful and expressive comic. The overall style foregoes realism in both the characters and the background but a lot of personality comes through the faces of the main three ladies and you’ll never have any doubts about what they’re all feeling at any point.

Woods does a great job of drawing you in without relying on heavy fantasy tropes within the artwork or overloading it with action. I think that’s a great way to take Ladycastle #1. Having fantasy be approachable is a good thing, since sometimes it can feel like too much all at once. The gentler approach is great for new comers and still compelling and interesting to fantasy aficionados.

The Verdict
Buy It
! If you need more badass ladies in your life and you need them now, don’t hesitate to pick up Ladycastle #1! If women of colour in leading roles, deconstructing gender roles, and fantasy without a damsel in distress is your thing, support Ladycastle and show BOOM! Studios some love for producing inclusive and fun comics!

Amelia Wellman
I read, I write, I play videogames, Ghostbusters is my favourite thing in the known universe, but quasars come in at a close second. I've been known to cry at the drop of a hat over happy and sad things alike. I've also been known to fly into a rage if things don't go my way, leading to many a fight in high school and breaking someone's nose on the TTC one time. I'm an anxious introvert but also a loud-mouthed bad influence. Especially on my cat. He learned it from watching me, okay!

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