Review: Silly Kingdom
Silly Kingdom: Alengrimrickshaw’s 211th Birthday and A New Steed Indeed
Story by Steven “Shaggy” Shanahan; Art by Katie Shanahan
With the Shanahan siblings’ Silly Kingdom, the title tells you pretty much what you’re in for. A more accurate title would be Silly, but Also Completely Charming and Occasionally Touching Kingdom and Oh By the Way Nice World-Building, but you see why they went the other direction. There are currently two volumes in the series, both doing wonderful things with their light-hearted premises.
As the name suggests, the series takes place in a medieval fantasy kingdom where funny things happen. The main characters are a pair of nameless royal siblings. The Princess is fun-loving and good-natured, but the Prince is a selfish rascal who’s impatient to inherit his father’s kingdom. The first volume, Alengrimrickshaw’s 211th Birthday, also introduces the kingdom’s ancient sorcerer. Alengrimrickshaw is as cranky as 211 years can make a person and he has no friends, so when the Princess discovers that his birthday is approaching, she decides that it’s time someone finally celebrate it. She ropes her brother and their friend Markus, the kingdom’s jester, into helping, but Alengrimrickshaw is irritated by Markus’s stage magic and decides to sabotage his own party.
In A New Steed Indeed, the Prince is envious of neighboring prince Peatrid’s new unicorn, so he sets out to capture his own, again recruiting Markus. The two of them delve into the Avoided Woods and instigate a cat-and-mouse game worthy of a Looney Tunes cartoon.
As cheerful and bouncy as the premises are, the real magic of Silly Kingdom is in the details. The Shanahans are both extremely gifted in their areas. The characters are all strong and have distinct personalities, which are communicated through joke after joke after joke. Some of the gags are verbal, like when the Prince questions whether the Princess wanting a magic show for Alengrimrickshaw’s party is for the sorcerer or for her. But most of the humor is visual, with even the spoken stuff being enhanced by the art. Katie Shanahan’s experience in animation gives the characters—humans, animals, and otherwise—an amazing range of expressions and body language that not only communicate individual personalities but also let each individual have a wide variety of emotions. In other words, while the characters look and sometimes act cartoony, they don’t feel that way.
The same goes with the kingdom itself. Part of the beauty of Silly Kingdom is that it feels like a real place. Most of A New Steed Indeed takes place in the Avoided Woods, for example. Even if the story didn’t include an awesome, Family Circus style, double-page spread map at one point, the detailed panels and recurring landmarks would still give the Woods a strong sense of geography. The same is true of the castle in the first volume. Silly Kingdom is goofy, but it’s never flighty.
That lets the story have some genuine moments amongst all the goofiness. I don’t want to oversell this part, because the books’ defining characteristic is that they’re simply great fun, but that’s not all they are. Thanks to the Princess and Markus, they’re also very sweet. And thanks to the irritable Alengrimrickshaw and the pleonectic Prince, they’re also instructive about the follies of certain kinds of behavior. Not that either of those characters necessarily learn from their mistakes, but readers certainly can. And they’ll be laughing as they do it.
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About Michael May
Michael May has been writing about comics for a little over a decade. He started as a reviewer for Comic World News and soon became editor-in-chief of the site. Leaving editorial duties to focus on writing, he joined The Great Curve, the comics blog that eventually became Blog@Newsarama and finally Comic Book Resources' Robot 6. In addition to loving comics, he loves his son and enjoys nothing more than finding (and writing about) awesome comics for the boy to read.
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