In the most recent trailer for the upcoming Ralph Breaks the Internet: Wreck-it-Ralph 2, we get a moment of meta joy when we are introduced to Disney’s princesses in their boudior and they give a quick, feminist run down of the lives princesses lead. In Todd Matthy’s new comic, Robots vs. Princesses, a new take on these old tropes forms as a young princess, Zara, fights for relevance in a fantasy world where her overly talented sister princesses are preparing to debut in society. With only pluck in her step and a song in her heart, she hopes to find a potentially mythical dragon to be her animal companion.
On the other side of the forbidden forest lies a world of metal and destruction. Giant robots battle in a constant war for supremacy between the forces of Lord Tyrannus and…it’s not really clear. They battle though. A lot. All except for one, much smaller bot who longs for a place where he won’t be the whipping boy of the much larger and crueler bots around him.
The basic elements of the princess fairy tale are all present in Robots vs Princesses, mixed in with what would normally be a stable boy or peasant running away to better his life. Boy meets princess, they go on an adventure, and everyone learns something about themselves in the process. Adding fighting robots on the other side of a forbidden forest — the locals think they’re dragons — adds a potential threat factor to the story that certainly will up the stakes in the future.
Matthy’s story does falter in a few places, pigeon-holing the other princesses and never quite getting around to explaining why there’s one small robot among all the bigger fighting monstrosities. He mentions heading to the scrapyard at one point, hinting that cowardice (in the face of programming?) is punishable by death. I have questions. Artist Nicholas Chapuis’s pencils capture the characters well, but his coloring feels flat in places. Dynamite has, however, published a book that will appeal to kids, no matter which side of the forest they come from.