by Andi Watson
I can honestly say that as far as I’m concerned Andi Watson just can’t write a bad book and with this and his other current project Glister he’s keeping up a phenomenally good standard. Princess At Midnight was first published in the first volume of Best New Manga, this has been reformatted and extended with an extra 10 page story to make a delightful, playful and satisfying couple of short tales at a bargain price.
(Princess at Midnight page 1. This is the house where our Princess lives. If one panel could ever capture the quirkiness and delightfulness of Andi Watson’s work this may be it. (c) Andi Watson, published Image Comics)
Princess at Midnight is lovely and simple; Holly Crescent is a quiet, home schooled girl by day but at night she’s becomes the Princess of Castle Waxing. For years all has been well, but suddenly the Princess, who previously wanted nothing more than a picnic and to choose the colours of her new dresses, finds herself doing battle with the Horrible Horde, a gang of nasties, Ogres and monsters, who want to take possession of her favourite picnic spot. As these things do, the war escalates, the armies are raised, artillery is brought into play and all the time Castle Waxing’s chancellor warns of dire budgetary trouble approaching. And each time the Cockatrice crows it’s time for the Princess to return to bed and wake up in her real world, where her twin brother has been acting suspiciously like one of the Horrible Horde himself.
(At first our Princess is a lovely thing, interested in nothing but picnics and having fun. From Princess At Midnight (c) Andi Watson, published Image Comics)
It’s a a book that manages the all too difficult task of being all things to all ages. My 9 year old loved it for the fantasy and the fun and the weird everyday life. And I loved it for the layers of detail Andi puts in over this simple tale. It’s all in the delicate touches; Holly’s home schooling beacause of her parent’s worries about the twins, who were premature and spent months in hospital, is presented beautifully. He never explicitally says it but a few deft touches tell us everything we need to know about the fear, worry and overwhelming yet potentially stifling love their parents are showing them. Similarly the comedy of the situation is subtle and underplayed yet no less well observed. Once in Castle Waxing, the fretting of the Chancelllor over money and the Princesses obsessive demands to never give in to the Horde that mirrors perfectly a little girls fights with her (slightly) older twin are equally clever, underplayed and funny.
(Second stage of Princess behaviour, just not wanting to share. From Princess At Midnight (c) Andi Watson, published Image Comics.)
As usual his art style is subtly different this time with a simplicity of line in his figures and a lack of detail in his backgrounds, but every stroke of the brush, every line and every detail is obviously thought through and considered. Like every single of his books I just can’t recommend it highly enough. The only risk with Princess At Midnight is that some readers will look at it as too light, in tone, content and length. But if they do, their missing out on a lovely little book.
(And a final stage of Princess behaviour; the escalation of things into all out war. More from Princess At Midnight.)
If there’s another cartoonist in Britain today as talented, as readable and just as all round brilliant as Andi Watson I’d love to know because he’s really setting a wonderfully high standard for everyone to aspire to.