Mega Princess 1 is a comic book that makes me want to have kids for the sole reason of being able to introduce them to comics with this book. It’s that good.
Many of you know friend of the Atomic Junk Shop, Kelly Thompson. You may have read one of her novels, or some of the comics she’s written in the past few years. If so, you already know she’s damn good. Here on Mega Princess 1, she absolutely shines. She’s joined in that by her artist, Brianne Drouhard, colorist M. Victoria Robado, and letterer Warren Montgomery. The book is a creator owned book out from Boom!, and it’s co-created by Kelly, Brianne, and Adam Greene (who’s obviously just collecting a paycheck while the ladies do the hard work! 🙂 )
Kelly shows a mastery of economic storytelling here — we get exactly what we need to know doled out to us at exactly the right pace.
Maxine is a princess turning 10, but what she really wants is to be a detective. In just 2 pages, we learn about Max’s wish to be a detective, her show jumping commitments and how she’s not really into them, and her mother’s tough but loving attitude towards her. She’s not lost in a fantasy world, as she’s self-aware enough to realize she’s just dreaming at this point, but she feels that the fantasy world is superior to her real world, even though her real world is being a princess in an as-yet-unexplained fantasy realm. And she’s not content to let being a detective stay a fantasy, she’s going to make it happen.
We jump to the stables, where Max wrestles homemade sweet pretend armor onto Justine, her pony,
and instead of using the standard wear for her pony, takes her out on display before the kingdom in the pretend stuff, to the mutual humiliation of both princess and pony (in a wonderful “off-camera” page that I’m not showing here, but we get to imagine exactly what all goes wrong instead of being shown). In just 4 pages we get the idea that the two aren’t the best of friends, but they share the humiliation of not living up to the standards of the kingdom.
As the humiliated pair return to the stables, Max is visited by her fairy godmother Amber, who hasn’t shown up before now in her life. Amber looks like your older sister’s cool punky friend. She gifts Max with the abilities of EVERY princess, which mostly seems worthless until she realizes that she can now understand her pony Justine (AKA Jerk Pony). Amber also makes the sweet pretend armor real so that Justine is a ready for action steed! All this is accomplished in a lean 7 pages.
I love Brianne Drouhard’s layout on this page, the top half showing, through the panel shapes, the way Max is bursting with excitement upon learning she has new powers, until she’s gradually beaten down by the fact that nothing “cool” happened to her, reflected in the way the diagonal of the top of the panels in the bottom tier slope down, sagging like her shoulders in the last panel. So good!
Max’s birthday party happens, and egads! Her little brother Bobs goes missing, and the kingdom is searching high and low. Max is handling the low part, as she believes the Tiny Kingdom is to blame. So she shrinks herself and Justine to look for Bobs, and uhoh, that last page is a cliffhanger!
The birthday party is accomplished in an economical 6 pages, wherein we get Max’s mom’s nonchalant reaction to the visit from Amber, as well as Justine being talked into giving Max and Bobs a ride on her back in flight.
We get to the (presumable) set up for the rest of the series in a slightly abrupt transition from the gift-giving from other kingdoms (as well as Max’s dad’s touching gift) to “Bobs is missing”, but we’ve got to move this along somehow. Max is on the case and we see that she still is 10, by her impulsiveness in shrinking herself and Justine to see what’s going down in the Tiny Kingdom.
This book is pretty much everything you want in an all-ages book. I feel like I’m not conveying fully how damn GOOD this book is! It’s only 1 issue in and I already want the rest of this series as well as volumes 2 through…infinity! In just 22 pages (and man, I’m…ahem, beating that pony, huh?), Kelly and Brianne manage to introduce a world, introduce a fun little girl and her life, share her dreams and humiliations with us, show us how her life is magical, and intrigue us with a mystery to solve. Everything we’re shown is both necessary to the book and yet also not any more or less than what we need.
It’s the little things, like the “Waves” bit there, that get me. It’s “unnecessary” but at the same time, it’s a little detail that shows you how adorable Bobs is.
Or this bit, where Max and Bobs are playing with Justine at the party. That’s another thing I love about this book. In a lot of these books with kids as stars, the siblings are shown as just annoying or begrudgingly loved, but Kelly and Brianne show us that Max and Bobs genuinely care about each other and are, as much as a toddler and 10 year old can be, good friends. I love that.
Or this, where Max explains to her mom about the “armor” she created for Justine. She knows she’s just pretending, even though she’s also sure that one day it’ll be more than pretend. Max has a self-awareness that doesn’t seem overly precocious to me — she knows herself but still wants to be more than that, but she’s also a 10 year old kid.
Here we see Max’s mom talking to her at the party, and explaining to Max that Amber making the toy armor real wasn’t “cheating”, but just making things happen sooner. I like this bit, and as I say in the caption, it seems metaphoric for talking about the relationship between writer and artist in comics.
And again, let me say that Kelly and Brianne are rockin’ it on this book. It’s such a great title, and it shows that Brianne is taking Kelly’s ideas and making them shine. The expressions on people’s faces (and pony faces) are wonderfully full of life, and show an animation influence (I am woefully ignorant of Brianne Drouhard’s work, so it’s entirely possible that she works in animation). She’s created a living breathing world here, and as I pointed out earlier, her layouts work well to convey story points also.
I haven’t mentioned the work of M. Victoria Robado on colors or Warren Montgomery on letters. They both do an excellent job, and unfortunately I just don’t have the skill yet to fully expound on what they’re doing. You can see from the images here what they’ve done, and other than saying that Robado brings a shine to things with the colors, I don’t really have a lot of smart things to say here.
Mega Princess 1 is an amazing #1 issue that sets up a title that I hope to be reading for a long time. It’s a truly all-ages book that doesn’t talk down to readers nor is aimed too much at adults, and if you love comics, you should be buying this.