Smash one part L’il Red Sonja, with an equal part of a ’70s comedy series and you have a good idea what Oni Press has in store for you with the release of Princess Ugg #1.
Previously in the realm of high fantasy: And there came a day when across the wastes of Hyboria a she=devil with a sword swore vengeance on man, and thus the female warrior became a staple in the telling of stories of high-fantasy.
THE ODD COUPLE
Princess of Ugg tells the story of a young princess from the mountain kingdom of Grimmeria who has been trained in the way of a warrior, but is now tasked with getting an “edgykayshun” so she can truly lead her people when she comes of age. Make no mistake, from the backstory, reddish hair, and berserker rage, Princess Ülga is easily an homage to Red Sonja (or Red Sonya if you want to go a step further), and though the presence of more female characters in comics is to be commended, it is somewhat disappointing that it goes right to the Red Sonja reference. On the plus side, Mr. Naifeh shows that a character can be defined not only by her abilities on the battlefield, but the recognition that being smart is just as important.
Princess Ülga will receive her schooling at the same place all of the princesses of The Five Kingdoms receive their schooling – down in the valley among the more civilized groups, and of course her mere presence in the city causes an uproar when she meets her polar opposite, Lady Julifer. Lady Julifer is the prototypical princess – wakes at noon, can’t decide what fancy dress she’ll wear, everything is handed to her on a silver platter, so when Princess Ülga and Lady Julifer cross paths in the streets of Atraesed, hilarity and a few poop jokes ensue.
There are several pages of fighting and goofiness between Ülga and the guard of the city, and when everything is finally sorted out, the inevitable end of the issue arrives with the princesses from two worlds as roommates at the school – one the savage “slob” and the other a “refined” lady, who expects to get her way all the time.
WHY PRINCESS UGG?
Ugg could be seen as a derivative of Ülga, but the furry boots Ülga sports through the whole issue look very much like the fuzzy boots SoCal ladies wear year round. Mr. Naifeh does the art duties in this issue as well, which makes the flow of the story work very well; the artist knows what the writer is expecting and is able to deliver in the appropriate number of panels and pages. Though the characters fill the roles they have been assigned, Mr. Naifeh keeps all of the characters on model and there aren’t any instances where I felt things were getting out of control.
The attention to detail spills across every page; whether it is a wide shot of the grand vista of the valley town, or a horde of barbarians attacking the princess and her mother, each time I look at the page, there is something new that I notice and appreciate even more. One could easily get lost simply looking at the double page spread of the busy city street that features everything from street performers, vendors hocking their wares, and citizens going about their business.
Rounding out the great looking art in this issue is the coloring by Mr. Warren Wucinich. It isn’t brash and over saturated, but rather subtle; Princess Ulga’s hair isn’t bright red but more of a strawberry blonde. I like this take when so many times this week the pages of other books I’ve read are simply too bright.
BOTTOM LINE: BETTER WITH EACH READ
Though the foundation of this book is based on some of the biggest tropes you’ll find in fantasy sword fighting books, there’s something about Princess Ugg that I really like. The polar opposite characters being forced to live together in the same room may seem tired, but I really do want to see how these two work out there differences and realize that they do not have to be adversaries. If you get the chance this week, pick up the first issue and give it a read. I’m giving Princess Ugg #1 4 out of 5 Stars.