Review – Ladycastle #1 (of 4) (BOOM! Studios)

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Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Writer: Delilah S. Dawson
Artist: Ashley A. Woods
Release Date: 25th January, 2017

King Mancastle and his brave Knights have ventured out on a crusade, leaving the womenfolk behind to tend to the castle.  Unfortunately, as sometimes happens in these situations, they all end up being eaten by a Dragon, unleashing a curse that turns the castle into a beacon for monsters.  So, with no other option, it’s up to the ‘meek’ and ‘gentle’ women of the kingdom to step up and get things done, with their first priority being to defend the castle from what looks set to be a near endless stream of dangerous creatures.

Unfortunately, in spite of the undeniable strength of the premise and the inherent likeability of the main characters, the first issue of this new BOOM! Studios series sadly doesn’t ‘pop’ like it should.  The humour feels offhand, the feminist message is a little muted and the whole thing just meanders on without any real sense of energy or urgency.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a hell of a lot of fun in places, but for a series that seems to be hanging its hat on the reader wanting to watch these women step up and kick ass in the absence of the ‘mighty’ menfolk, it all feels a little, well, timid for the time being.

That said, Deliah S. Dawson’s characters are all undeniably well-conceived; the princess in the tower who dreams of anarchy and longs to do her own thing; the young girl who wants to be a knight and avoid the fate of her tower-bound older sister; the blacksmith who finds herself stepping up in the absence of male leadership; the faintly misogynistic surviving Knight who becomes the castle’s only male occupant.  The pieces are definitely in place for an enjoyable  series, and there’s nothing necessarily ‘bad’ here as such, but as I said, it all just feels a little low-energy for the time being, which is a big problem for a first issue.

The artwork, provided by Ashley A. Woods, is solid, if a little unambitious at times.  The character designs are strong for the main characters, but the pages have an oddly sterile feel to them which jars a little with the lively, energetic tone of the story.  Thankfully, Woods thrives during the more fantastical moments of this issue, and her colours are impressive throughout, so it’s going to be interesting to see what she does with the stream of fantasy beasties who come calling to the newly-renamed “Ladycastle” in the issues to come.

Overall, this is a solid opening for what should hopefully be a thoroughly enjoyable series.  I’m just keeping my fingers crossed that Dawson decides to hit the strengths of her story – the humour, the feminism, the intriguing characters – a little harder as the series progresses, otherwise Ladycastle could end up being a massively wasted opportunity of an otherwise five-star premise.

Rating: 3/5.

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ceejThe writer of this piece was: Craig Neilson-Adams (aka Ceej)
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