The Courageous Princess, Vol. 1: Beyond the 100 Kingdoms
Written & Illustrated by Rod Espinosa
Dark Horse Comics
Release Date: March 18, 2015
Cover Price: $19.99
It seems that from our earliest childhoods, fairy tales, and heroic legends surround us. As children, they nurture our minds and fuel our imaginations. As adults, we’re bombarded with feature-length retellings from the likes of Disney and Dreamworks to Studio Ghibli and Peter Jackson. And then there’s Rod Espinosa. The artist behind such works as Neotopia and Alice In Wonderland, Espinosa’s been charming both children and adults with his beautiful artwork and simple, compelling storytelling for years. The Courageous Princess series continues that trend wonderfully. The series is a re-release of an earlier publication from the venerable Antarctic Press, made possible through the good graces of Dark Horse Comics.
In the world of The Hundred Kingdoms, Princess Mabelrose, daughter of King Jeryk and Queen Helena of the kingdom of New Tinsley, grows up beloved both by her parents and subjects alike. Intelligent, inquisitive, and strong with an independent streak, she thrives under their care until one horrific day when a greedy dragon kidnaps her and steals her away to his hidden fortress, far to the south. Grief stricken, her father sets out to find his daughter, but Mabelrose, hearing from the dragon that no prince will ever come for her and being no helpless damsel in distress, makes up her mind to escape on her own. She tricks the dragon into leaving her unattended and makes good her own rescue. On the road ahead, she encounters many dangers and hardships, but many friends as well. I won’t spoil the story, though – this is too good for spoilers – you will have to read this graphic novel to find out. I will say that she truly is a courageous princess, and her bravery is an inspiration to everyone around her, and certainly to this reader.
The Courageous Princess, Vol. 1: Beyond the 100 Kingdoms is the first of three Courageous Princess volumes that Espinosa has worked on over the years. In addition to the simple beauty of his storytelling, his character designs are an exercise of economy in line work balanced with a richness of texture, color, layout, and background design that is at times startling to the eye. The character of Princess Mabelrose reminds this writer a little of Hayao Miyazaki’s heroines in her strength, independence, and sheer pluck. One can see his influence on Espinosa’s work here. One also feels strains of the Disney influence in his storytelling and artwork, although Espinosa has his own story to tell in these pages, which he masterfully does. Also, the globetrotting aspect of the princess’ adventures reminds this writer of the Hans Christian Andersen story The Snow Queen in the continuing quest that Mabelrose must endure to find her home and in the richness of the characters she encounters on her way.
The Courageous Princess, Volume 1: Beyond the 100 Kingdoms is available in print and online via Dark Horse Books. The price of $19.99 is well worth the expense, in my opinion. Rod Espinosa has shown his skill in creating compelling worlds of his own. At this rate, he could very well find himself, before too long, in the august company of world builders like Hayao Miyazaki, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Hans Christian Andersen. I highly recommend this book.