“Damsels” #1 has a decent enough premise at first blush: reimagine the fictitious maidens from age-old tales and present them in an adventure where their stories weave together. At least, that’s my first impression of what this book is supposed to be given the J. Scott Campbell cover, solicit text and preview. On first read, I’m not sure how accurate that first blush really was. The opening page features a character that could easily be Tinker Bell, but it could just as easily be any other fairy ever imagined.
The entirety of “Damsels”#1 presents more of a challenge to accept and enjoy than the concept of this title. Leah Moore and John Reppion start the issue off with a nice one-two punch of character introductions, blending the pair of characters together through clever use of framing. After the opening scene, Moore and Reppion interrupt themselves, changing scenes from the adventure that launched the issue and slowing it down with regal affairs and pretentious characters. The adventure I want to see more of — the town square with unique creatures of unknown origin — is brushed aside as our potential protagonist is sent off on a chase sequence that challenges reader interest and gives artist Aneke some challenges that do not necessarily play to her strengths.
Aneke’s character work is decent, displaying good grasp of placing people within scenes while having them move through their environments. The artist capably avoids homogenizing all of the characters, which could easily happen given the nature and circumstances of this story, but sometimes the characters, while remaining distinct, seem to morph a bit into something else or an older version of themselves. On several pages throughout this issue, some very weird page composition choices are made. Those instances are surrounded by white space where the art on the page is spacey and oddly composed, almost as though every panel were drawn separately then pasted onto boards by another individual completely. Or perhaps, Aneke is leaving the readers space to add their own drawings to the story. The cavernous white spaces become distractions instead of reprieves.
Another spread of this book is devoted to the narrative of King Aurore and Queen Talia surprinted in yellow overtop background images that could easily have been rendered as lineart adorning a scroll. Some writers and comics have used a similar text-page model with success (see Jonathan Hickman’s work on “Fantastic Four”) and such a maneuver would have added a modicum of regality to this tale. Instead that spread is simply muddy and tedious.
The story has potential, weaving these legends together, but I haven’t seen enough from one issue to convince that that potential will quickly or solidly be realized. I’m not currently reading “Fairest,” therefore I can not make a comparison, but taken on its own merit, this book seems entertaining enough and worth a peek into the second issue. It’s not completely dismissible, but it is also not quite memorable.