Comic Solutions

The Nameless City

screen-shot-2016-09-10-at-10-06-16-amThe Nameless City
Faith Erin Hicks
First Second
April 2016

The City has endured for ages. It has been, and always will be, the Nameless City. For even though every nation that invades it gives it a new name, it never lasts. And all who come from elsewhere are outsiders. Kai(du), a Dao born and bred member of the latest occupiers, is one such outsider. He’s glad to finally meet his father, who has been stationed in the City since before he was born, but is unsure of his place in this new world. Is he like his father? Is he a new born soldier? Or is he something more? He explores the city like no other before him and meets Rat, a young girl that is a native of the city who can teach Kai about more than fighting. And maybe together they might just save the city.

OK let’s go ahead and get the obvious out of the way, yes this book is clearly influenced by Avatar the Last Airbender. From the color choices, to the way the city is laid out, to even the costumes. Does this mean that Faith is ripping off Avatar? No, not at all. Is she paying homage to it? Sure. Along with a dozen other series that preceded Avatar. And there are influes of Hayao Miyazaki in here as well. But this story is all Faith’s. The way the characters are written, the way they move, the way they interact with each other. In Faith’s world it’s all about Rat and Kai and their relationship. The city, the wars, the politics, everything else is secondary to these two, because we’re watching them grow and change each other. And that’s the power of Faith’s writing. The one issue I have, is that this volume feels really rushed by the time we get to the end. I really wanted there to be a bit more development than there was, but maybe we’ll see it in the future volumes.

As always, I find that Faith’s art carries the book. That’s not to say that the writing isn’t good, but the artwork is what pushes the story into the next level for me. Faith is great at drawing teenage characters, capturing their expressions, the way they move, the way they hold their heads. All of it just picture perfect.  They have a lot of depth to their expressions so that even without the words of the story you can tell what’s going on. Faith also has a way of capturing the feelings and movements of being young. That sense of being crowded and all alone at the same time.  And that sense of relief at finding someplace to be yourself. That. That is something that I find in all of Faith’s works and enjoy greatly.

This is the first time I’ve seen Faith use color in a full graphic novel and…eh? It doesn’t hurt the story at all, but it doesn’t really enhance it either for me. It’s a very muted palette that I think at times hides a lot of nice little details that Faith has in her work and I think that’s an adjustment that they’ll have to make. Either use a more varied palette, or put less little details in so the two mediums aren’t competing with each other. Something like…well the Adventures of Superhero Girl, another one of Faith’s works, where color has been added. The blend of Faith’s line work and color works better here, because the line work isn’t as detailed. And I know, I know the two works are completely different in tone, but the less complicated style is what’s needed if color is going to be added. It allows the color to enhance the line work instead of mute it. Also something that has some bright colors would be nice. Again, I know this work is meant to have a more somber tone to it, but there are moments, like where the city is alight at night, where the colors could really help it shine and make it more magical.

Overall, it’s a good story and really plays to Faith’s strengths as a storyteller, especially with the teenage protagonists. I’m glad that this is a series and another book is on the way, because I really look forward to seeing how the characters progress.
ARC provided by Gina at First Second

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