Review: Nubia: Real One
[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]
Writer: L.L. McKinney
Artist: Robyn Smith
Letters: Ariana Maher
Reviewed by: Seth Singleton
Nubia: Real One is the beautiful story of a young girl coming into her own. It all starts with learning that the responsibility of her powers is not just a burden, but an opportunity that comes with choices. When her friends and community are threatened, Nubia must find the balance she needs to make a difference by proving what she believes.
Nubia has the best friends. Quisha is adorable, conscientious, and quick to challenge Nubia to stand up for herself. Jason is wise-cracking, irreverent, and hopelessly crushing on Quisha. When Nubia faces her greatest challenge, she’ll do it to protect her friends.
Good friends want the best for you. In the case of Nubia, Quisha and Jason know and she has a thing for Oscar. When Quisha and Jason encourage Nubia to approach Oscar in a convenience store, the two conspirators hop in the car and leave. Both are hoping that Nubia will have no other choice but to face her fear. Instead, Nubia is forced to expose the truth about a secret she was supposed to keep hidden or watch Oscar suffer.
Nubia’s fears are real. After she stops the robbery she runs when a clerk accuses her of being one of the robbers. Her interaction with a police officer afterward is fraught with heartache that is painful to read. Nubia’s hometown is struggling with police violence.
There is a march in honor of a young man recently killed by an officer while running away. Nubia is afraid that she could be another victim. As her mother says, “Doing right while looking wrong.” That fear does not go away even after the police officer releases her from the back of a patrol car and removes the handcuffs that she was wearing.
Positives — Family and Community
This exchange frames the challenges Nubia must face while growing into the person she wants to become. She is struggling with the powers she is learning to control and must continue to keep a secret. Reminding her of this is Nubia’s mother Amer. Of her two mothers, Amer is the stern and strict one. Mama Danielle is the kind and supportive reassurance who lifts Nubia up when things seem at their worst.
Wonder Woman’s arrival fills in the details of who Nubia really is and where she comes from. Even long-time fans of Nubia and her connection to Diana will enjoy this new rendition of the legendary origin. The revelation that other Amazons have always been close by is a wonderful reminder for Nubia that she has never really been alone or far from her the community she was born into.
But even Wonder Woman and a special gift can’t solve all of Nubia’s problems. In the end, she must remember what she knows about herself, her friends, and what she believes. One of the challenging and brilliant moments comes from Nubia’s adversaries.
At its heart, Nubia offers honest dialogue that readers will connect with on the first page. Ariana Maher’s letters capture the personality behind every word. This is sustained by difficult exchanges, with her friends, parents, and even Wonder Woman. Challenges are everywhere. There are no easy answers. But talking about them and showing why it is important in a story is invaluable.
Nubia Real One is the story of a hero growing up in the midst of a community under siege. L.L. McKinney uses this backdrop to introduce Nubia’s story with an awareness of the challenges and the opportunity. Like Nubia, McKinney faces the moment and magnitude with thoughtful intention. Robyn Smith brings the action to life when the moment arises, but the quiet, natural, spontaneous moments of real-life are made poignant with details that make each panel into its own story.
Nubia’s return to mainstream DC Comics is a delight for fans who know her story. Nubia: Real One invites a younger audience to discover her story now and grow to love and follow her adventures in future comics issues. It all unfolds with a palette from Brie Henderson that is rich with color and vibrancy that mirrors the heroine’s emotions, motivations, and relationships. This book will delight, engage, and move readers to laughter and tears. Welcome every moment and discover why a journey of joy and pain is its own reward.