We’ve come to the end of Raven: The Pirate Princess’s first run of issues! This week I cover the ninth, tenth, eleventh, and twelfth issues in the series. Next week we begin Year 2: Love & Revenge.
Issue #9: Raven’s Story Time
In this issue, Raven’s crew reacts to the aftermath of their fight with Raven’s brothers. While Raven deals with Ximena, a temporarily deafened Jayla has to learn sign language, Katie must learn to take charge, and Sunshine begins to deal with her own complicated emotions. While the more-able bodied crew plots a course for a “spa” that can heal Ximena, Raven keeps her company with a story from her family history.
The inevitable cool down chapter after an action-packed climax, we get to see relationships being tested in this issue and, largely, it works. At the center, of course, is the running tension between Ximena and Raven. Raven’s tenderness and worry really shine through despite the comic’s continued issues with inconsistent tone (having Raven give a big emotional speech and following up with “I’m kinda in love with you” bugged me to no end). However, a big chunk of this story feels just a tad wasteful: Raven’s story. While it’s a story well-told, it’s essentially an info dump on Raven’s family more than anything. It has some relevance as an explanation for Raven’s drive (although we’re reminded of that nearly every issue) and drawing a few comparisons to the current situation Raven finds herself in. However, the effect of such a large piece of story being devoted to a flashback story is that the side stories just don’t have room to work. I would have preferred the story to stay in the present and focused on Jayla, Katie, and Sunshine. It also just slows the story up considerably, meaning that the next few issues (as we’ll see) cover a weirdly brief bit of time.
Issue 10: Sunshine’s Secret Origins
The crew has reached the mystic spa that promises to heal Ximena, but first their leaders must parlay with the intimidating island guards. As Raven intimidates, seduces, and cajoles her way through a “no-pirates” policy, Sunshine is left to babysit her romantic rival, and she tells the story of her conception to kill time.
One comic with a lengthy flashback can be a problem, but understandable, two in a row just feels indulgent. And this story seems to have even less bearing on current events than the last comic’s diversion, though I suspect it will pay off as Sunshine develops in Year 2. The best I can tell is that it gives some insight into Sunshine’s romantic sensibilities and her own attraction to Raven. Sadly, it’s not quite enough for the story to really feel important when we could see more in the moment action and character work.
It is nice, however, to see Raven actually acting like a pirate. For a long time, she and the crew have been taking a “holier-than-thou” stance on things and it felt like the “pirate” name was just a fancy title. But this issue she’s in full Capt. Jack mode as she tried to convince the guards to let them on the island. It’s something we really don’t see enough of.
Issue #11: Earn Your Ex-Machina
We get to see more pirate/ninja/rogue work from Raven as she infiltrates the secret hideout of the mysterious “Lady” of the healing island. Through a combination of her own martial arts and a bag of tricks that includes flaming arrows and magic purple smoke, Raven is able to literally crash the party and meet Leilani, the possible-goddess at the center of the island. But before she will heal Ximena, Leilani has one demand: Raven must best her in single combat. But despite her kind appearance and feminine bearing, Leilani is not what she seems.
I’m just happy there’s no stories in this issue. Instead, we get more swashbuckling fun from Raven as well as just a little bit of moral ambiguity. Which is good because, y’know, she’s a damn pirate. Essentially, Leilani and Raven’s fight is a violent cross between “Won’t Say I’m In Love” from Hercules and a therapy session.
My only problem with this issue is a bit of a nitpick, but Raven’s pause to help a guard with asthma just feels kind of…weird. It doesn’t really seem like the sort of thing you’d organically come up with when writing a fight scene, does it? While the pause does justify Leilani’s mercy after Raven’s trespassing, there surely could have been a better way to go about it than “guard happens to react badly to Raven’s attack.” It’s an action comic, guys. It’s okay if the guards just go down and stay down if it can keep the story going, rather than pull the reader out.
Issue #12: A Weird End
It’s the end of the first run of Raven and things are…slightly quiet. We start mid-stick fight as Raven finally gets the upper hand on the previously untouchable Leilani. She forces the healer onto the defensive as she finally begins to admit that yes, she loves Ximena, and yes, it’s her fault the two were separated for so long. Back on the ship, Katie and Sunshine plan a dance party. When Raven returns with Leilani, the ship is overjoyed when the tall healer makes the comatose Ximena whole again. But the issue ends with two threads unresolved: Raven has still not admitted her love for Ximena, and Sunshine won’t admit her love for Raven.
I just really wish the cliffhangers here weren’t entirely romantic. While the love triangle is well written and I do care about the outcome, it just feels like a real blah thing to leave off for a hiatus. There’s not much danger or immediacy to these revelations, and there’s no sense that any outside dangers are coming anytime soon. Even a little flash, to see Raven’s brothers on their way, or a totally new threat on the horizon, would make the end hit a little harder.
In this issue, as well, Raven‘s tonal inconsistencies rear their head again. In the big fight between Raven and Leilani, the wise and knowing Leilani quickly becomes a slapstick victim as she begins to lose. Having her go from “I know the depths of your soul” to making goofy faces and cracking jokes is just…weird. It immediately robs her of weight as a character and makes Raven’s victory over her just a tad less impactful.
I really hope Katie gets her awesome bisexual dance party next season.
While I enjoyed parts of this block of issues, it really feels like a poor finale. Even if Year 2 is more of a continuation than a new “season,” there really needed to be more urgency and action in these finale stories to keep things going. As well, while I know it’s about Raven, you can’t just dangle these little side stories in front of me then deviate back to the main character’s story, especially when that time is filled with what essentially is filler.
And, I might add, this is still a pirate comic. I really hope we get to see more pirating going into Year 2. I’m a Star Trek fan, so I can appreciate a good piece of genre soap. But even the soapiest Star Trek had sci-fi adventure to go along with it, to justify the setting. I worry that Raven may get so lost in the personal drama that it forgets itself.
But we will deal with that next week!
If anything in the above review interested you, you can pick up digital copies of Raven the Pirate Princess on Comixology , and collected physical editions on Amazon. If you’re already a fan, you can spread the word about Raven on social media and to your friends! Share this review with them! Review the book on Amazon or at other retailers.
Images courtesy of Action Lab