REVIEW: Raven, The Pirate Princess

I’ve been travelling a lot recently and I deal with it two different ways. I either movie my way across the Atlantic or read my way across Europe. This week it was off to Sweden for the wedding of the amazing Andrew Reid and Lisa Morota (Congratulations, folks! Thanks for the party! And the candle! And the Sweden!) so I read Raven: The Pirate Princess. All of it. And so should you.

A spin off from the also excellent Princeless, Raven follows the youngest child of a Pirate King. Betrayed by her dad and brothers, denied her birthright and mad as Hell about it she gets a ship, a crew and a fleet of problems. Top of that list is Ximena, her best friend as a child and, it transpires, a pawn in one of her father’s schemes. Then there’s Sunshine, the half-Elf dancer and full-time pickpocket. Then there’s the fact all three women know there’s something between them but none of them quite know what.  And then there’s the crew and their issues, and the search for vengeance and a truly extraordinary amount of punching.

The art is provided by Ted Brandt, Rosy Higgins, Nicki Andrews, William Blankenship, Jr., Xenia Pamfil, Ro Stein, Jason Strutz amd Sorah Sungh and it’s about as note perfect as I’ve seen. The whole point of the book is that Raven’s crew are a massively diverse group of women in every way and there isn’t a single artist on this team who fails to communicate that. Brandt and Higgins in particular are standouts but all of them go out of their way to give the characters a unique personality, look and tone. That in turn emphasizes both the fractious nature of the crew and the frequent, and excellent comedy.
Because if you were looking for an extended takedown (And punching of) toxic masculinity then this is absolutely it. And it’s ALSO a fantastically handled comedy, a story about the price of confidence and how hard it is to hang onto and multiple romances. In the hands of a lesser team this would be a never ending drama storm. Here it’s anything but. Raven’s crew are sailing uncharted waters in every way and the way they learn about each other, and the world, is subtle, realistic and often impossibly sweet.

Plus Raven in particular gets her ass absolutely handed to her, in every way, over and over. Whitley’s script is funny, high energy, clever and never once lets its impulsive heroine off easy. Her slow realization of who she is, as well as what she wants, is the wind in the book’s sails and the idea that Raven will transform her family’s past, atone for it and make a new name for herself gives the book a real heart. Plus, she’s instantly likable, learning at the same time as we do. Just with a LOT more punching.

This is funny, kind, action packed and fundamentally good-hearted comics that deal with massive issues with honesty and grace. Every collection is a bargain. Get it, read it and join me in waiting for more.

Raven: The Pirate Princess is out now, with five collected editions to date. Get them all.


This piece originally appeared as part of my weekly newsletter, The Full Lid. If you liked it, and want a weekly down of pop culture enthusiasm, occasional ketchup recipes and me enjoying things, then check out the archive and sign up here.