Ted Naifeh’s “Princess Ugg” #5 kicks off the series’ second story arc (and just as a trade paperback of the first four issues also went on sale), and it’s nice to see that the series has lost none of its mojo. In some ways, this is actually a little more pleasurable than what came up until now; Ugla’s less a victim and more of a mover-and-shaker.
The big shift this issue is that we’re starting to really see Ugla as the capable, smart character that we’d been assured she was. Much of the first story arc had Ugla as a bit of a victim when it came to Princess Julifer (as well as the other princesses), and while Ugla was able to save Julifer’s bacon in the riding competition, that also had more to do with Ugla having a steed that Julifer could ride. Here, we get to see her beginning to thrive in her new surroundings, as well as impressing those outside of the school.
And in the end, that’s exactly what “Princess Ugg” needed. It’s one thing to cheer on the underdog; it’s something else to cheer on a character bordering on wet blanket. Rooftop pep talk aside, it’s been a bit hard to be fully on board with Ugla’s progress because she seemed so beaten from one moment to the next. Here we’re seeing her not only out-muscle those around her, but also get good at the world of being a “civilized” princess. It shows us why Ugla’s the best chance of survival for her people; she’s able to not just physically destroy those around her, but she’s also mentally acute enough that she can adapt and learn as need be. And all the while, she’s still the Ugla who can beat the boys at arm-wrestling and disarm the bandits with just a musical instrument.
Along those lines, I like that as Naifeh draws the progression of Ugla through this issue, she’s always recognizable. You can give her more refined clothing and a prettier hairstyle, but there’s always that strength in her compact form that would warn most sane people away from messing with her. Some of the facial expressions are really good here too, like Ugla’s befuddlement when the princesses offer up a three cheers to her, as well as Julifer’s shock when Ugla discovers the secret that she’s been hiding.
Ugla’s gotten quite good at playing the game of diplomacy, and now that she has all of the rules under her belt, “Princess Ugg” #5 kicks the series into high gear. This is a good next chapter for the title, and I’m now quite looking forward to what happens next. All in all, good stuff.