Damsels #1 – Indie Review
The major comic companies get enough reviews and press, it’s time for the creator-owned and indie series to get some love and judgment. Indie review takes up-and-coming indie and creator-owned series and puts them through the review process so you can confidently support the best of the small press and passion driven projects in the comic industry.
Title: Damsels #1
Writer: John Reppion & Leah Moore (Wild Girl, Albion, The Thrill Electric)
Colorist: Ivan Nunes (Grimm Fairy Tales, A Game of Thrones)
Letterer: Simon Bowland (2000AD, The Boys)
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
Number of Issues: 1
Page Count: 32
The Review Bit
Damsels is a brand new mini-series by the great creative minds of Leah Moore and John Reppion, a married writing team who have already tackled classic literary characters like Alice, Sherlock Holmes, and Dracula. Now they are taking on some more fairy tale themed characters, but in a much more unique manner than they dealt with the previously mentioned classics. It seems Dynamite is quite confident in this new story, having worked with Reppion and Moore before yet rarely giving them variant covers the company is so known for pouring out. With Damsels #1, Dynamite managed to put out 9 covers for this opening issue based around just 2 pieces of art. It seems the publisher really wanted to milk its one piece by J. Scott Campbell art as they stuck it on 8 different covers, in varying forms (though many are HIGHLY limited).
Moore and Reppion’s take on Damsels so far is quite interesting, with a rather mysterious and unique combination of several fairy tales. However, this story is no Grimm Fairy Tales and certainly not Fables. Right now the story focuses on Rapa, a young redheaded girl who wakes up in the grimy alleys of Caumont, an otherwise rich kingdom. If it surprises you to read Rapa’s name here but not in the comics, that is because she has so far only been named in the solicits and interviews for the series (likely because it hints that she might be the true Rapunzel). Rapa, who has long red dreads wrapped atop her head, wakes ominously after a fairy has bitten a young child and fled only to instantly face xenophobia in this grand kingdom. Apparently she is an outlander to the people of Caumont, and that is not something the locals really appreciate. Rapa instantly faces degradation, a goat stampede, and the attack of a caged troll. Not the most enjoyable way to start your morning, but certainly a fast paced intro to a fantasy city’s poorer regions. After the troll has tossed her across town into a marketplace, where Rapa crashes into a fairy seller, she makes even more enemies in the way of patrons and sellers whose business she’s destroyed/disrupted. Fleeing yet again we come across the richer part of the kingdom, where a grand procession brings the royal couple of the neighboring kingdom, Perrault, to the castle of Caumont. The monarchs of Perrault turn out to be King Aurore and Queen Talia. If this all sounds familiar, it is because a man named Charles Perrault once wrote a classic French fairy tale, based off an Italian fairy tale called Sole, Luna, e Talia, which you might know as Sleeping Beauty. Queen Talia, as she was also named in the Italian version, is Damsels’ Sleeping Beauty (though oddly her prince charming, Aurore, is named after the couple’s daughter, L’Aurore, from the original Perrault tale). The royal visitors have come to see the monarchs of Caumont, King Persine and Queen Rapunzel. Once again, the kingdom is named after the author of the original fairy tale, this time Charlotte-Rose de Caumont de La Force, who wrote the original fairy tale, Persinette, which the Grimm brothers turned into Rapunzel. However, in Persinette, the princess was Persinette, rather than Damsels making the masculine version of the name a name for the King. But enough of this literature lesson I felt so inclined to share. In Damsels, it seems that the Queen Rapunzel is a little more manipulative, and unlike in the Brothers Grimm version, has not cured her lover and King of his blindness, as the character seems to only find more deteriorating health. Never-the-less, the royalty of Caumont anxiously await the arrival of their neighboring rulers, alongside a sinister looking guard.
As Rapa’s fleeing crosses paths with Queen Talia’s procession, our Sleeping Beauty spots her and has a flashback that leads to the royal guard being sent after Rapa. Moore and/or Reppion certainly enjoy having characters chase Rapa. Thankfully for Rapa, she finds aid in the form of mermaid disguised as a human (feet included, with a high possibility she might come from a kingdom called something along the lines of Hans Christian Andersen). The two manage to escape pursuit in hopes of later solving a mystery revolving around Rapa that the mermaid seems slightly more familiar with than our redheaded protagonist. Meanwhile, the two royal couples meet and are apparently watched from a far by a group of magical beings. Queen Talia notices the sinister looking royal guard belonging to Queen Rapunzel and declares him an imposter. The guard proves herself a magic using fairy, scaring much of the royal court, which despises magic, until the fairy is killed. This ends the first issue of Damsels with the only scene comic fans might compare to Grimm Fairy Tales, featuring a nude and mangled fairy corpse (though nothing to get by any means aroused over, leave that to Zenescope’s titles).
The story certainly creates an intriguing mystery as to who is Rapa and where things will go, with clues undoubtedly hidden in plain sight. Moore and Reppion do a brilliant job of incorporating the original fairy tales and related easter eggs into the title. The dialogue is enjoyable, with an obviously English pile of colloquialisms spread throughout (which makes sense considering the authors are from Liverpool and American audiences often associate Fairy Tales with British English…oddly). However, it is the rather fanciful narrative I most enjoyed, with a classic “Once upon a time…” opening and 2-pages of pure narration in the center of the book. To this, some credit must also be given to Simon Bowland, the series’ letterer, who rather beautifully did this narrative caption without a caption box and uses a great style of font and initials.
The art of Damsels #1 is also quite stunning, with Aneke drawing some amazingly emotive and often cute boys and girls amidst evil, yet fairy tale-esque magical beings. Her faces do tend to be rather round, but this only seems to add to the cute factor and give a somewhat lighter heart to the art style. It is accompanied rather nicely with Ivan Nunes’ bright and vivid colors, that really make the interiors quite striking. Nunes does a great job tinting the flashback scenes, to emphasize their different time frame along with Aneke’s ripped style bordering of such panels. My only possible complaint about the art is one panel towards the end of the comic, featuring Queen Talia as she declares the sinister guard an imposter. Nunes colors take over where Aneke’s art either didn’t or shouldn’t have, giving Talia the crabapple appearance of a very aged woman. Because this art didn’t seem synchronized between artists, it is hard to tell if this was an intended aging of the character in the script, or a mistake by one of the artists. Pushing past that minor note, however, Aneke does an exemplary job for a new comer to the published comic field, with a rather great paneling style and skilled comprehension of sequential story telling.
The Rating Bit
Damsels is a fantastically unique take on classic fairy tale characters so far, with a mystery that has me looking forward to the next few issues in hopes of finding answers to what is going on in the kingdom of Caumont. The art is strong and enjoyable, with very solid writing to share the tale of Rapa and company. This tale is not yet an epic, but the opening issue certainly is enjoyable enough to earn Damsels #1 a very nice 8 out of 10, with some high quality covers, interiors, and storytelling.
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