Lily Reads Comics – Ladycastle

It sure is about time for me to jump back into my series of comics reviews! Happily, I’m finding that there are comics out there for everyone, even those of us who don’t care to keep up with endless superhero universes and spinoffs. In prior installments of Lily Reads Comics, I shared The StoryTeller: Dragons and Toil and Trouble, two series by Archaia that I really loved. However, I did promise that I wouldn’t only be talking about Archaia books, and I’m making good on that!

It has been over a year since my last comic book review, and I’ve been lucky enough to read several good books. It just so happens that Ladycastle from  BOOM! Studios will be released in trade paperback on October 24, so it seems like the perfect place to start.

Ladycastle is written by Delilah Dawson with art by Becca Farrow and Ashley A. Woods; the covers are by Ashley A. Woods and Elsa Charretier (variant)

Issue One: Welcome to Ladycastle

Issue One: Welcome to Ladycastle

When King Mancastle refuses to pay a toll, he and his men are cursed, and all (except one) are eaten by a dragon. Sir Riddick is the only man to return to the castle, where the women have taken over the roles of the menfolk and the eldest princess has been locked in a tower. The story opens with Princess Aeve describing her daily routine with a decidedly Rapunzel-esque song…

When I began singing along to the tune of “When Will My Life Begin” from Tangled, I knew we were off to a good start. Many of the other denizens of the castle are introduced with a song in the style of “Belle” from Beauty and the Beast. For years, Princess Aeve has been answering their letters as though she were an advice columnist. One person who never sends her letters is her younger sister Gwyneff. She resents Aeve for not marrying and therefore keeping their father away looking for a suitable husband, but Merinor the blacksmith chastises her for not being more sympathetic to her sister’s incarceration.

Now that Sir Riddick is the only man to be found, he assumes he will take on the mantle of king. But the Lady of the Lake is the one who bestows the sword of the king, and Merinor is the one to wield it! Keeping the mantle of “king,” she and the princesses set about to make ready for whatever the curse might bring.

The first foe to descend upon the castle does so in this issue, and Princess Aeve chooses to face it in a way contrary to Sir Riddick. And here we come to the first thing that bothered me. Aeve recalls a letter she received from “the well hag,” Hagatha, that is the key to their first victory. But other than one panel in which she neither speaks nor is named, the reader is completely unfamiliar with this character. I thumbed to the front of the comic, wondering if I had forgotten the aforementioned letter or Hagatha’s introduction, but there was nothing. This disjointed and hastily resolved battle left me a little wary, but it wasn’t enough to keep me from continuing with the series.

Issue Two: That Pesky Werewolf Problem

Issue Two: That Pesky Werewolf Problem

I’ll try to keep the rest of my review relatively spoiler-free, but the cover and title of Issue #2 have already given the second cursed adversary away!

The book opens with King Merinor singing a lyrically-altered rendition of “I Wonder What the King is Doing Tonight” from the musical Camelot. Rather than a boisterous tune about being afraid to get married, I imagined her song as much more melancholy and vulnerable, punctuated by clang of her blacksmith’s hammer. She’s scared, but there’s no time to give into fear with werewolves howling outside the walls.

Merinor, Aeve, Gwyneff, and Sir Riddick head to the library to do some research on werewolves, and they discover that a secret librarian has been tending to the books. Yanni has been living in the dungeon-turned-library for years since her husband banished her there after she was paralyzed in a cart accident. She’s a font of knowledge and reference books, though she’s scared to go above ground after years of hiding because of her husband’s shame. The king supports her no matter what she decides, and she chooses to join them above ground, using her new job as the castle’s carpenter to make some battle-ready upgrades to her wheelchair.

The castle has little time to prepare before the werewolves are upon them. And again, I found myself disappointed in the rushed battle sequence. I appreciated that the ladies were armed with their wits, but there was another twist that came out of nowhere. When Princess Aeve jumps out of the window from the tower, she looked too happy to be plummeting to her death, so I scrambled to think of what she might have prepared for this eventuality. I ended up rolling my eyes and muttering, “Oh, of course,” because it seemed to be another solution pulled out of thin air.

Like Issue #1, though, the next adversary shows up before this chapter closes, and I couldn’t just leave it there. Besides, I liked some of the characters and was looking forward to another chance to see King Merinor in her awesome armor!

Issue Three: When Harpies Attack

Issue Three: When Harpies Attack

Again, the cover and title of this issue gives it away, so it’ll be no surprise that harpies are the next creatures to visit Ladycastle!

As we have become accustomed, the book opens with a song that seems awfully similar to another song we might be familiar with — this time, it’s “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air.” So I guess the source material doesn’t technically have to be a musical, but this series still manages to pick music that will end up being stuck in my head long after I finish the issue.

Some more new characters are introduced, and I’m kind of torn about how I feel about this. On the one hand, it’s nice to meet new characters with new skills. Dr. Quacksilver knows a thing or two about harpies, and though she no longer has to hide her face, she chooses to keep wearing her native costume. It also turns out that the Queen (the second wife of King Mancastle) still abides in the castle, and she is enlisted to teach everyone etiquette for their mandatory tea party with the harpies. Her lessons come complete with cue cards and Fight Club references. However, for only a four issue series, the time with these characters is all too brief. For example, we haven’t seen Hagatha or Yanni since their respective issues. I found myself wishing that this tale could be much longer — something like Castle Waiting, a series I’m sure I’ll find myself writing about sometime soon.

Even given my qualms, I was happy to see Gwyneff be the one who solves the harpy headache, and she and Aeve start to mend their relationship. King Merinor begins to wonder if this curse was actually good for them, but that’s right before Gwyneff suddenly disappears down a hole and a new enemy appears at the gate.

Issue Four: The Black Knight Rises

Issue Four: The Black Knight Rises

The final issue wraps a lot of things up, and there’s another twist that harkens back to what seemed like a throw-away line in an earlier issue. After my prior complaints, you can imagine that I really appreciated this pay off!

What song is used in the first pages? It’s “Ten Duel Commandments” from musical Hamilton, (which is itself a reference to “Ten Crack Commandments” by The Notorious B.I.G.). I don’t keep my love for Hamilton a secret, so obviously, this was another big win for me.

I also liked that a number of those smaller characters made appearances and got to use their skill sets, even though they only made their way into a few panels.

To find out how the story ends, you’ll have to read it for yourself! You can request the individual issues at your local comic book shop or wait until October 24, 2017, to get the trade paperback.

I’m excited to share more comic books with you in my next installment of Lily Reads Comics. Until then, let me know in the comments if you’ve read Ladycastle or if you plan to pick it up this month!

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