By Rachel Nabors
48 pages, black and white
Published by MangaPunk
Self-publishing is a leap of faith; instead of another company taking a chance on your creation, you’re putting your own money where your mouth is. Doing so with a manga-influenced modern fairy tale that can double as an educational story on crows? Now that’s one heck of a leap indeed.
Cora Wood was dead for eight minutes before she was truly alive. When she finally started breathing, her mother disowned her, claiming that Cora wasn’t truly her daughter, the first step in a life of alienation. Are her dreams just a symptom of her desire to escape her family and her classmates? Or something greater calling her?
Rachel Nabors’s Crow Princess is an interesting book, in that the more I read it the more I found myself really warming to it. I think that’s in part because Nabors is using a traditional fairy tale narration style, which can come across as a little distant if it’s not what you’re expecting. At the same time, though, it’s the right style to use for the book. Doing so sets an interesting tone, letting you look at Cora’s life objectively even as you grow to care about her. Additionally, with the bulk of Crow Princess being within a framing device, it makes sense even within the narrative for the story to be told this way. As for the story itself, in some ways it’s a little slight and forgettable, but it’s still enjoyable. Nabors carefully constructs her mystery and then provides its solution, telling it in a concise but satisfying manner.
I wasn’t sure what to think when I first saw that Crow Princess is drawn in a manga-influenced style, but I was quickly relieved to see that Nabors doesn’t fall into the trap of aping a style without understanding it. Nabors has a good sense of anatomy and storytelling, keeping an internal consistency and pleasing visual style throughout the book. There are a couple of really nice visuals in the book, like Cora’s winged harness with its deliberate impractical look that just makes it all the more charming. Nabors also plays with the marriage of the art and lettering at one point, and it’s a strong enough look that I wished she’d done it more elsewhere, as the art could have permitted. Backgrounds are a bit sparse, and there’s a single panel of a school bus that is jarring due to it being the sole usage of a photo instead of linen art, but these are minor complaints in the greater scheme of things.
Nabors’s Crow Princess is a nice book that shows some real promise. Her foreword and afterward text pieces come across as worthwhile additions to the entire package instead of being indulgent, and likewise I really appreciated Kathy Bernhardt’s essay on crows included at the end of the book. I’ll definitely keep an eye open for future books by Nabors; I’d certainly like to see what she could do with the space of a longer graphic novel. She’s definitely got talent, and I’m glad that she, just like her character Cora, was willing to take that leap of faith.