Raven Xingtao is on a mission to restore her rightful legacy as Pirate Queen, a position (under another name) usurped by her brothers when they imprisoned her. Captain Raven and the All-Girl Pirate Crew detailed how Raven managed to gather her crew, and introduced several of the main players. Interestingly, Jeremy Whitley doesn’t content himself with restricting the known cast to half a dozen women and bit players. The bulk of the crew were recruited from an 18th century gaming club, and early in Free Women he starts to introduce them individually as well. Real thought is applied to them, ensuring they’re not just makeweights, and along the way Whitley manages to make a point about religious observance.

That would be pointless were the crew just drawn generically, but the art team of Rosy Higgins and Ted Brandt make sure they’re as visually distinct as their personalities, although Higgins has given up the colouring with this volume. At first it seems they’re going to be stuck just providing the wooden backgrounds of the ship, but when the story opens up, they shine further.

Through Whitley, Raven has some very untraditional ideas about how a pirate ship should be run, and while some readers may consider he tips too far in the direction of political correctness, the more open-minded will realise it’s an interestingly different approach. The opening chapter is is a bonding sequence, with the action generated by conflicts from within rather than a great pirate dust-up, and built from small scenes as those crew members with skills pass them on to others. When this volume’s major threat arrives it’s a surprise, but serves to display just how far Raven’s crew have developed in a short while, providing both brute force and ingenuity.

Whitley is treating Princess Raven like a quest, and that rolls out slowly overall, but this provides plenty of surprises and a full dose of fun. Two Boys Five Girls and Three Love Stories is next.