A paradise of green hills and beautiful women; the little town full of bustle and work; the sound of music in the air. And then a man arrives, as they are wont to do, bringing panic and disruption in his wake.
Ladycastle is a graphic novel all about how much trouble men cause: a refreshingly honest take on the classic fairytales. The Disney-style musical number that introduces the characters is a blunt account, in their own words, of how bad things are in the kingdom of men. I’ve got a lot of time for this approach.
Oh, sure, it can be a little heavy-handed at times, and the song lyrics need polishing, but there are some genuinely unexpected plot twists. And it’s really funny, really unashamedly witty and wicked, like a poisoned spindle puncturing the pretensions of the old king.
For me, graphic novels divide into two categories: either I like the images, or I like the text. Rarely both. This is definitely a book that you read for the story. The images are competent and bright, but not particularly original or creative. At their best, graphic novels combine text and image to create a story that echoes through several dimensions, but the excellent story of Ladycastle is restricted to 2-D silhouettes.
However, there is one significant point in the artist’s favour. Ladycastle’s characters are predominantly female, but if you’re expecting a gaggle of poorly-armoured catwalk models à la Wonderwoman, you’ll be disappointed. Through the story, you encounter a dazzling diversity of women: small, large, medium; brown, white, wingèd; tomboys and trophy wives. And none of them are judged unkindly.
Ladycastle is not perfect, but I read it in one sitting, and then immediately trotted off to find out if there were more in the series. (So far, there seem to be four issues, which are also available as a single book – that’s what I read.) It’s brash, it’s funny, and the adventure runs along at a good clip. I’d be glad to see more issues and I recommend it to you.