Story by Leah Moore and John Reppion
Illustrated by Aneke
Letters by Simon Bowland
Colors by Ivan Nunes
Covers by J. Scott Campbell and John Chen
Release Date: September 13, 2012
Cover Price: $3.99
Damsels is not your grandma’s renaissance faire, unless of course she happens to have endless reserves of energy, then perhaps it is. Our popular culture seems to be tiring of the impending apocalypse or equivalent and looking to the simpler days of yore, that never was, for stories. Not to worry, zombies still have lots of brains to eat and our own modern minds can’t seem to make a fairy tale without that sense of great fear and trepidation intrinsic to the plot. Think Grimm, Once Upon a Time or in the comic world Fables or Fairest where they take cute folk tales from our youth and weird those up so adults will care about them.
I like this escapist concept and there are endless paths for a narrative to go when your main characters are not Instagraming what they had for lunch from their iPads. Damsels answers that challenge of making a new series with a popular premise stand out by bringing lots of cinematic style action and chaos into the mix. Sleeping Beauty, The Little Mermaid, Snow White and Rapunzel may never be the same again.
Leah Moore and John Rappion are not as interested in the original tales they are referencing but instead utilize them as guideposts to keep the story grounded in something familiar when the plot goes spiraling out of control. Our tattooed, rope haired protagonist Rapa has woken up with some very fuzzy memories in a strange and hostile kingdom. People keep calling her “outlander” and she upsets someone trying to buy a pet fairy, and then her day just gets worse. Luckily, she has a gothy fanged mermaid lady to help her with her apparent memory gaps and identity crisis. They are in the midst of a very fancy royal celebration glittering all around them while they are being pursued through the streets by some very shady characters that seem to want them dead. Dozens of other potential subplots abound and royal types and their minions are introduced and even treated to a bit of backstory. However, the story never parks in one place long enough to really let you focus on any one person or event. The kingdom and an informal roll call of its inhabitants are enough of a literary challenge for this nonstop carriage ride of a first issue, pun intended. There are already enough whispers of murder, treason, affairs, magic, class issues, xenophobia (mythological renn style) to see where our capable authors will take us even if I am not convinced I am emotionally invested in that journey just yet.
More convincing for me perhaps was the spectacular artwork by Aneke colored in luminous jewel tones by Ivan Nunes. Balancing extremely cartoon like stylization with nuanced emotion and believable physicality is the true achievement here so far. I love sparkle and girly cuteness as much as the next person but Aneke really allows the hidden personal grit within the character’s personalities to burst through, so this very doll like new universe does not end up looking “too junior.” Tattoos were a smart aesthetic motif in this medieval landscape and also may prove to be an essential plot device in future issues. The fairies looked a tad generic and interchangeable but they seem to be oppressed in this kingdom/realm so perhaps the artist intentionally showed them this way as a reminder that this is not Disney or anything the readers can be sure of, or at least not yet. I am interested to see if literary magic saves the day or at least to see how the next few issues look!