Nubia (Paperback, 2021, DC Comics) 5 stars

"Nubia has always been a little bit...different. As a baby she showcased Amazonian-like strength by …

A really impressive read

5 stars

Content notes for school shooting, police killing/brutality, armed robbery, and SA.

Looking at the nature of the violence that is one of the things that perhaps most impressed me about this book. Because with some of these young adult DC titles issues of violence and poverty have sometimes felt insultingly cartoonified, even considering they are supposed to be for younger readers. That's not to say that I have no critical thoughts about the depiction of violence... It would literally make no sense for the robbers to kill anyone in this or any story as that would up the consequences for all of them exponentially. Not to say that sort of thing never happens, and people make mistakes. But I do feel like, the media's depiction of armed robbery makes it seem much more likely to happen then it actually does in real life. Flipping back to the positive side though, I did feel that Nubia was more honest about many other kinds of dangers and violence that face the kids these days. Not that I'm the final judge on what feels authentic to kids these days... 

Flipping to the back of the book, let's look at the creator bios.

First off we have "Leatrice "Elle" McKinney, writing as L.L. McKinney, is an advocate for equality and inclusion in publishing, and the creator of the hashtags #PublishingPaidMe and #WhatWoCWritersHear. A gamer and Blerd, her works include the Nightmare-Verse books, Nubia: Real One through DC, Marvels Black Window: Bad Blood, and more."

Then artist Robyn Smith "is a Jamaican cartoonist, currently based in New York City. She has an MFA from the center for Cartoon Studies and has worked in comics for the Seven Days newspaper, CollegeHumor, and the Nib. She's best known for her minicomic The Saddest Angriest Black Girl in Town and for illustrating Jamila Rowser's comic Wash Day. [another comic high on my TBR] Besides comics, she spends most of her time watching American sitcoms and holding on to dreams of returning home, to the ocean."

Looking at their portfolio website, Ariana Maher describes themselves as "I’m currently the letterer of Detective Comics for DC Comics. I also work on numerous Marvel Comics titles as a part of the Virtual Calligraphy team. Notable work at Marvel includes Hellions, Demon Days, Excalibur, and Silk. In addition to that, I work on the Critical Role franchise published by Dark Horse." They also have a helpful blog post about what kinds of information to provide when you're looking to hire a letterer.

And while I try to profile everyone involved in a project, I am sufficiently confused by the number of artistic Brie Hendersons on the web that we will just put that one off for another time.

And last but certainly not least we have Bex Glendining, whose portfolio website describes themselves as "a biracial queer, UK based illustrator, comic artist and colourist. Bex has worked as a cover artist, colourist and interior artist on projects such as Seen: Edmonia Lewis, Penultimate Quest, Rolled & Told, Lupina, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and When Life Gives You Mangoes."

What kinds of keywords came to mind reading this book? family, strength, coming of age, pinks and purples, friends, love, threat and self discovery.

And the summary was "Nubia has always been a little bit...different. As a baby she showcased Amazonian-like strength by pushing over a tree to rescue her neighbor’s cat. But, despite having similar abilities, the world has no problem telling her that she’s no Wonder Woman. And even if she was, they wouldn’t want her. Every time she comes to the rescue, she’s reminded of how people see her; as a threat. Her Moms do their best to keep her safe, but Nubia can’t deny the fire within her, even if she’s a little awkward about it sometimes. Even if it means people assume the worst. When Nubia’s best friend, Quisha, is threatened by a boy who thinks he owns the town, Nubia will risk it all—her safety, her home, and her crush on that cute kid in English class—to become the hero society tells her she isn’t. From the witty and powerful voice behind A Blade So Black, L.L. McKinney, and with endearing and expressive art by Robyn Smith, comes a vital story for today about equality, identity and kicking it with your squad."

Having already touched a bit on the writing, let's jump into the art first. TLDR I loved it. I think the limited colour pallet was used to great effect and the character designs felt really relaxed and casual. Particularly when it came to gender expression. There was also a lot of very rich detail in particular when it came to the depiction of Black women.

Certainly not the first book to look at what it would mean to be a Black superhero in so called america. It is a question I think is very much worth returning to, particularly as the discourse continues to grow and develop. Nubia is not only one of the more recent additions to this discourse, I also feel like it also takes the baton that much further through the way that Nubia's feelings are explored as well as visual clues that hint at all the very worst things that could happen.

Looking at gender and sexuality, as I already mentioned this felt very diverse and relaxed. None of the characters sits down and discusses the nature of their gender or sexuality, but the combination of gender presentation and Nubias Moms gave it the chill queer feel that is so nice.

Race was obviously the main focus of the comic. But again it didn't feel like a PSA or very special episode. It was just a really great story that might help some of us deal with some of the harshest parts of reality.

Class, as usual, was completely washed out.

Ideas of ability and disability felt like they went a bit further then your average super hero comic, but still avoided a lot of real world repercussions that some of our characters might have had to face otherwise. By which I mean Nubia could be hurt and was hurt, but everyone is set to recover at the end with no discussion of how much medical care costs in so called america - to say the least.

That said, the part of the book that really made me roll my eyes was was the use of a Molotov cocktail at the peaceful protest... Like really?

To conclude, a really great super hero read in my opinion. I'm definitely interested in picking up more from these creators and am rating it 5 stars.