When my copy of Cursed Pirate Girl arrived, I knew I was in for a different type of graphic novel. I didn’t even have to open the cover – the jagged page edges, textured light blue cover, and detailed cover art all contributed to the character of the book itself. Or, in simpler terms: it felt very pirate-y.
Cursed Pirate Girl is written and illustrated by Jeremy A. Bastian and follows the stories of two characters: Apollonia, the daughter of the governor of Port Elisabeth, Jamaica; and the titular character, the Cursed Pirate Girl (we’ll refer to her as ‘CPG’ from now on because wow, what a mouthful). Apollonia and CPG meet and befriend one another in spite of the governor’s hatred for pirates in his port city, and through their interactions we learn that CPG has an agenda of her own: find her pirate captain father, who was last seen sailing on the Omerta Seas. When CPG sets off on her quest while Apollonia stays behind in Port Elisabeth (what’s the 18th-century term for “grounded”?), the adventure really begins.
The artwork, let’s be clear, is mind-bogglingly detailed. More often than not it looked like intricate tattoo art, which fit the overall pirate aesthetic. There’s nothing typical about his drawing style, and the absence of color really works for the type of atmosphere he’s reaching for – it’s dark and creepy, which make the morbid bits of the story (and there’s quite a few) even more nightmarish. Sometimes, though, this attention to detail didn’t work to the story’s advantage: I could feel myself losing my place in the actual narrative because I was so caught up squinting at the panels trying to make out exactly what was going on in certain scenes, and sometimes the speech bubbles themselves were hard to follow.
With so much going on artistically, it was somewhat of a relief that the general plot was simple enough to understand, though Bastian adds plenty in terms of side stories and builds up a mythos of his own. CPG is reckless, brave, and headstrong, everything that a young pirate would need to be in order to forge on a quest by herself (although she does receive help every now and then from Pepper Dice, the talking parrot). She’s also easy to root for – you want her to find her father. You want her to get out of the sticky situations she finds herself in.
What’s more, CPG doesn’t just call herself a pirate girl for the heck of it, or because her father was a pirate captain himself. She demonstrates very early on that she can hold her own as a lone pirate by fending off three boys in a swordfight (or rather a “stickfight” since they don’t use real swords. Child safety mattered even back then, I guess). She’s also able to outsmart and outwit her opponents in any given situation; brawn isn’t always the thing that saves the day.
As for Apollonia, she has a tough time of her own back in Port Elisabeth. Her friendship with CPG gets her into trouble not once, but twice (though once was admittedly Apollonia’s own fault trying to emulate her newfound-but-currently-MIA friend). While the narrative mostly follows CPG, we do get some snatches of what’s happening with Apollonia back on base, and it looks as though she’ll be playing a more important role in the upcoming volumes of Bastian’s series.
Cursed Pirate Girl is definitely worth whatever time and money you put into it. It’s nothing like any other comic or graphic novel I’ve read, and that goes for both the artwork and the world building that Bastian does. Volume two is still in the works, but you can bet it’ll be just as breathtaking as the first.
- Cursed Pirate Girl focuses on the titular character as well as Apollonia, the governor’s daughter.
- This edition of Cursed Pirate Girl is volume 1 in an ongoing series. Volume 2 is yet to be announced.
- The artwork is black and white and aesthetically reminiscent of tattoo art and sketches.
YOU MAY ENJOY CURSED PIRATE GIRL IF:
- You’re interested in reading about young girls kicking butt and wielding swords.
- You’re a ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ fan and have been looking for something new to devour that centers around the briny deep.
- You’re a fan of non-traditional comic/graphic novel artwork.
Gabby Taub, the Fantasy Reviewer at Girls in Capes, is a rising senior at New York University studying creative writing. She enjoys reading, writing, watching TV, and spending time getting lost among the bookshelves at Strand Bookstore.