Comic Review: Princess Ugg Volume 1 from Oni Press
Princess Ugg is a fantastic coming of age tale with endearing characters and a healthy dose of fantasy. This title deserves a place on your shelf next to Lumberjanes and Princeless.
Princess Ugg Volume 1
Check out Princess Ugg TPB Vol. 01 on your own! Order the trade now.
Right off I am going to tell you that I fell in love with Ülga, Princess of Grimmeria, and her quest to keep peace among the factions in her homeland—a promise she made to her mother. This “bonny, wee berserker” chooses to go to princess school in the city of Atraesca for a formal education: everything from diplomacy to etiquette. This experience to broaden her horizons isn’t easy. There are mean girls, well mean princesses, at this school. We get to follow along as Ülga finds her way to achieve what she needs to become a leader at home.
Naifeh makes great points and asks great questions about how people are treated based on appearance and perceived societal value in Princess Ugg. Ülga is from the hills and not from the city. She enters princess school as a total outsider. Her knowledge, skills, weapons, clothing, and muscular build aren’t valued by the other girls or teachers. Ülga has a lot to offer though—if anyone would give her a chance. With guidance of a teacher, she begins the process of building bridges with the girls and sharing more of who she is. It is a powerful lesson: that sometimes we each have the power to transform our friendships and relationships for the better by changing our perspective without losing ourselves.
Ülga has a dialect that comes across like Merida in Brave. I enjoyed it and felt it underscored her outsider position at school. I bring it up here because I saw some comments on Goodreads that readers did not enjoy it.
Even though I was taken with Ülga from the start, I saw tropes of the male mentor and the absent mother that are played out for me. These elements don’t detract from the book—I had a great time reading it. Really, I liked it so much that I want it to be ALL the things that want to read. I want to read stories with more women mentoring girls or other women and I would love more mother-daughter arcs. Ülga does have a close tie to her mother, who was a powerful and visionary queen. However, the mother is not available to Ülga and in the first five issues Ülga is excluded from the other girls by the girls themselves and female teachers. With Ülga working to make friends, the latter could easily change in the coming issues.
Naifeh’s art is perfect for his script. I place it smack in the middle of a spectrum between Albert Udzero’s Asterix and David Peterson’s Mouse Guard with enough detail to set the place and time yet with a cartoon sensibility that the characters are easy to process.
I am very excited for the next issues. (Issue #5 and #6 are out now.) I really want Ülga to achieve her goal and fulfil her promise to her mother. Although, it would be a shame for Ülga to lose her accent or her warrior nature as a result of this princess school!
In addition to Princess Ugg, Ted Naifeh’s work can be found in the Courtney Crumrin stories and Gloomcookie. (Oh how I love Gloomcookie!)