Disney may have produced the most memorable stories about princesses that have ever been told, but writer and artist Ted Naifeh is bringing a new angle to the genre with the story of the barbarian princess from Grimmeria. In a new comic series published by Oni Press, “Princess Ugg,” a finishing school for princesses will find that not all princesses are cut from the same cloth.
“Princess Ugg” #1 introduces Ülga, the princess from Grimmeria, a mountaintop society that time has seemingly forgotten. Naifeh shows the kingdom nestled in a harsh snowy climate where the ways of war are praised and bathing eschewed. Ülga questions why she must venture off to the world to attend a princess academy, but like her mother before her she heads to the world below to learn the proper ways of a princess.
Ülga takes little time in catching the eye of the other princesses, by riding into town on her wooly mammoth and running afoul of Lady Julifer, a princess of the prideful tradition of princesses. The differences between the two unfold through the narrative to highlight Ülga as a princess unlike any before her.
The first issue reads as the first act of the longer story. Naifeh uses the space to accentuate what really makes these two princesses differ. It is not heavy handed but does tend to fall into the familiar allegory of the outsider finding herself in a world she never wanted. But the story does not feel hackneyed in any way as it is well done and sets up a fun premise for development and interesting clashes between the two cultures.
Naifeh’s artwork in the first issue is a real treat. Well designed comic book pages capture the story in great detail. Princess Ülga is drawn as the true barbarian child with her braids falling out of her horned helmet giving a great touch to her character. The story really shines with the settings that show the contrast of the harsh climate of Grimmeria where the “icy winter winds … harden the sinews” and the fantastic fairytale city-state of Altraesca where the children are soft from all the sunshine they play around in.
Warren Wucinich provides the coloring and lettering for the issue. The colors give the artwork a final polish to make the details pop off the page. They are not overly elaborate as the tone befits the setting they are used in. The only bright color used in the land of Grimmeria is the almost hair of Ülga and her mother. Otherwise they accentuate the tougher reality of this world with shades of gray and brown. The lettering highlights the fantasy feel of the story with the old world styling to give the story the feel of a long lost fairy tale.
“Princess Ugg” #1 is the entryway to a new world of adventure. While the story is built around getting to the princess academy the main themes deal with fitting in. Princess Ülga views the world different from her contemporaries and from that she’ll find her conflict, but the story is sure to be filled with excitement as evidenced by the way Ülga handles “Sortin’ out a few knackers that be pickin’ fights over nothin’.”
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