Written and Illustraded by Ted Naifeh
Colored and Lettered by Warren Wucinich
Published by Oni Press
Ulga, her parent's "bonny wee berzerker", is nervous. Not because she's about to go into battle with frost giants, she's already killed six herself, but because she's about to leave her homeland in the north and go off to school. Not just any school, but Princess School just like her own mother when she was a child. And she's not happy about it. Not at all.
Princess Ugg is a tale of "high adventure and higher education" starring Ulga, who is not your typical storybook princess by any means. She's a princess but she's also a fierce warrior, and already quite accomplished in her homeland. Picture a small, tweenage, vaguely Gaelic Conan who just happens to have a pet wooly mammoth named Snorri. Now send that little girl off to a school very much like Hogwart's, but for princesses. Are you onboard yet?
Early on in the first issue we're introduced to Ulga's father Odin, but it's intentionally left unclear as to his godhood. In this story so far he's only a caring father who doesn't want his daughter to leave him and go down among the lowlanders. It's a touching enough scene and I appreciate that his character isn't rudimentary, and like every other depiction of Odin in comics. I've seen enough of that guy.
We're also introduced to Julifer, Princess of Atraesca, early on, as she is being awoke by a servant, surrounded by a luxurious bedroom, complete with servants to wait on her every need. If that isn't enough on it's own to make you dislike her there's even a servant there to hold her tissue when she blows her nose. This little gag works, and you're immediately rolling your eyes at her and her dim-witted dialogue. Juxtapose this with a scene in which Ulga is woken up by her wooly mammoth dumping ice water on her, then diving into a frozen lake to bathe and it's instantly clear that these two characters are from the opposite ends of the princess spectrum.
Ulga, on her way to the Princess School, is whipped by one of Julifer's servants for not getting out of the way quick enough and is incensed enough to dish out a little education of her own on the guards. It's a good scene and at the end of it, Julifer finds herself exactly where she needs to be. There's a real sense of just desserts in that scene that I enjoyed a lot more than I would have expected. It just works for me in a very saturday morning cartoon kinda way. Julifer would make a pitch-perfect evil stepsister.
At the end of the first issue Julifer and Ulga are assigned as each other's roomates at the school and while I saw that plot point from a mile off, it wasn't something that I didn't want to see play out. I think there's a lot of mileage there for future stories and I'd honestly like to read them. I've read up to issue #2 now and the quality carries over. If you liked number one, then keep on reading as I think it's going to continue to meet your expectations.
My only complaint would be that the school itself needs to be fleshed out a little more for my liking, along with the teachers. The other princesses could also stand to be given more time in the spotlight, but this might just me being impatient. "Daughters of kings turn up here to learn all sorts of things" is an interesting motto and I'd like to see the stories in Princess Ugg go off the rails a little and deal with some of those.
This book was a lot of fun to read. and while there's a lot to compare it to, I feel like it totally stands up as something unique in the comics medium. I feel like I'm constantly hearing how there are not enough comics for kids in the market, but this title is not only great for kids (so far) it is absolutely fantastic for girls who might not be into Disney princesses or reading about female characters who just wait around to be rescued. I think Ulga is a fantastic introduction to a different way of thinking about princesses, and something that I will definitely get into the hands of my own daughters... After I read them of course.