With the rise of diversity and female fandom in the comics industry, it’d be very easy to write a story about an unconventional princess who bucks traditional gender norms. And yet Kelly Thompson manages to take feminist subversion and subvert even that concept, giving us a story where gender norms come back with a comedic twist.
Mega Princess is about Maxine, an “ordinary” girl who wants to be a detective and design rockets and shrinking rays and do all kinds of adventurous things. Problem is, she’s a princess, and her mom wants her to commit to all the expected princess stuff: riding horses, wearing dresses, and otherwise having a perfectly dreary existence that doesn’t involve fun, at least to her. She’s a sarcastic little firecracker who doesn’t have time to live out all her mom’s hopes and dreams. So when Maxine’s goofball fairy godmother appears on her 10th birthday, Maxine hopes that maybe she’ll be blessed with superpowers or Wolverine’s claws or something good.
The twist is that Maxine’s godmother instead imbues her with the powers of every famous fairy tale princess ever. Now she’s got grace, charm, singing powers, and can feel a pea through 20 mattresses. This might be fun to somebody, but to Maxine, it’s probably equivalent to dreaming of being Wonder Woman and ending up transformed into Steve Trevor. But at least she gets the power to talk to animals…which turns out not to be so useful when the horse she’s been abusing can now tell her what an ass she’s been.
In other words, Mega Princess is a humorous “be careful what you wish for” story, where a girl who wants to break free of gender norms is now thrust back into them. Don’t worry, this is no horror story–it’s from Boom, so it’s a kid’s story, so the story keeps getting pulled back into the princess trope even as Maxine desperately tries to escape it. Maxine is, at heart, a detective, so she has to find ways to use these new “princess powers” to solve her first mystery: the disappearance of her younger brother.
Brianne Douhard’s artwork is appropriate for this type of story, remaining very cartoony and yet still showing a lot of detail. Douhard also works a lot of personality into her characters, so that their distinct personalities are reflected in their faces. Maxine is stuck up; her mom is very regal and proper; and her fairy godmother Amber is not quite all there. It’s very charming, and Douhard’s career should be one to watch in the future.
I tested Mega Princess on my 10 year-old daughter, and she loved it from beginning to end. Maxine will be very familiar to the kid who was raised on Disney Princesses but, somewhere around age six, switched to reading books and climbing trees all day. Consider getting this one for the Mega Princess in your life.
Rating: Five tiaras out of five.