Another Castle: Grimoire Written by Andrew Wheeler, Illustrated by Paulina Ganucheau, Lettered by Jenny Vy Tran
Another Castle: Grimoire is a solid enough graphic story, better suited for younger readers than older ones due to its relatively simple story and characterization, though even aimed at that audience I would have liked to have seen a bit more depth and writing craft.
The story follows the adventures of Princess Misty, daughter to the king of Beldora and, like many a princess in the old stories, a reluctant prospective bride. Her impending marriage to Prince Pete is meant to unite two kingdoms and hopefully allow them to stand against Badlus, evil king of the neighboring kingdom of Grimoire. This not being an old story, though, we get the much more common modern day story involving a much more feisty and self-directed princess. Which comes in handy when Misty is early on abducted by Badlus and brought to Grimoire to be his bride. Her desire (and subsequent attempts) to escape and/or overthrow Badlus are complicated by several factors, including a rescue attempt by well-intentioned but relatively incompetent Prince Pete (who unfortunately is bringing the only sword that can kill Badlus closer to the evil ruler’s grasp), Badlus’ threats against the people of Grimoire, a anti-monarchist heir to throne via the prior ruling family, and her father’s decision to march an army against Grimoure and its monster population to try and get Misty back.
To start with the positives, the comic provides several worthy messages, Beyond the feminist take on the princess story, which obviously is no longer particularly subversive or original, the cast is nicely diverse, and instead of the usual replace an “evil tyrant” with a “benevolent monarch,” the politics are a bit more enlightened. The coloring is bright and vibrant and the artist has a nice hand when it comes to facial expressions, often a sticking point for me with graphic stories.
Unfortunately, the negatives encompass several basic storytelling elements. Characterization is pretty thin, with little sense of depth or individuality. This extends to Badlus, who along with having a horrible name, just doesn’t compel much as a villain, which robs the story of much drama. The plot also doesn’t grab you. It doesn’t help that one of the major sub-stories—the prince’s attempted rescue attempt that may end up giving Badlus exactly what he want (the magic sword)—feels wholly contrived from the start, as the manner in which he ends up with the sword makes no sense whatsoever. And as bright as the colors are, and as how nice a job is done with the faces, I’d call the art more serviceable than memorable, with no images or spreads that grab the eye or stay in the mind. And the logistics/geography is never really made clear.
As mentioned above, younger readers may be more forgiving of the abrupt shifts, thin characterization, and weak plotting, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t better out there. You have to admire the intent here, but I just wish the execution had been better.
Story-issues aside, Ganucheau’s art is always lovely to look at.