It’s been a thin month for reading comics for me, aside from the brilliant The Wicked + The Divine I only managed to get through the fantastic and joyful Nimona by Noelle Stevenson and the dreary depression of The Walking Dead by Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adard. I decided to not post reviews of books/comics I didn’t like as much, focusing mainly on those which are highly deserving of recommendations and praise. I shall begin with the glorious good before moving onto the bad and ugly:
Nimona – Noelle Stevenson
Nimona is the complete compiled story of Noelle Stevenson’s critically acclaimed web comic and it is a joy from beginning to end. The dialogue is sparky, witty and funny, the relatively small cast of characters are emotionally and characteristically complex and brilliantly drawn. The art is colourful and fun, the pages of this edition produced in shining high quality; Stevenson drops us deep into Nimona and Lord Ballister Blackheart’s life and drip feeds the unique world-building with ease and fun.
I have used the word ‘fun’ a lot, which would imply there is not depth to this book; and how wrong you would be. Nimona is not a hero, she is a determined villain, a sympathetic but dangerous outcast who jumps into killing gleefully, but is terrified of a horror film wrapped under a blanket on Blackheart’s sofa. And LGBT characters! Heroic, brave, strong, cowardly and complex gay characters! It is a refreshing and entertaining relief to have such a portrayal in a fantasy comic. In this regard it shares it’s only similarity with Rat Queens, but that comic is a much more violent and sassy affair; Nimona is teaming with charm and fun like a brilliant Studio Ghibli piece, (not that Rat Queens isn’t fun, simply a very different kind, they would make an interesting double-bill of reading).
If you’re ever feeling down about lack of representation, diversity or the grim world around us in general, Nimona is the perfect remedy.
Presenting the bad and ugly:
The Walking Dead: Compendium One – Robert Kirkman
We all know the story, apocalypse, Rick Grimes, hospital, lost his family, crazy best friend had affair with his wife – shit just got real. Kirkman’s story is one of the most popular comics series there is, and arguably one of the big success stories. The TV show adaptation by AMC gets the biggest numbers on American TV and is a media juggernaut despite the ridiculous production history (I enjoyed the show initially and had seen it first before ever reading the comic, and has its own faults and flaws, a few of which have been inherited from its source).
But this is the comic, and a number of things surprised me. The dialogue in particular is often shockingly bad, either bland and uninteresting declarations of the characters emotions or feelings to one other to prescribe their personalities to the reader or huge amounts of dry exposition and detailed slow explanations of their plan of action. The art was perhaps the most surprising, the famous black and white images often favouring large splash pages and extending scenes across pages were now and then striking. But Tony Moore (Issues #1-6) and then Charlie Adard’s (Issues #7-present) art have issues with children; their bodies are misshaped and uncanny.
They look like shrunken adults to me. But now the stickiest of the Kirkman problems: portrayal of women. The show has this issue too, and has been unconvincing in its attempts to fix it, despite an array of fantastic actresses with badass skills and weapons they seem unable to construct a convincing, rounded person when it comes to women. While the men fight, the women wash clothes.
The most laughable moment comes after Rick and Tyreese have a violent bro-down. Dale informs him of their new democratic circle of elected members to make decisions, all of whom are men. Rick questions this and is told by Dale that:
“The women don’t want to, I think they just want to be protected”
And that simple line of dialogue says it all really. It is a strange creative decision to me, Kirkman has constructed this unbalanced sexism, then has his protagonist question it before being explained away as if it’s a fact of life. Women want to be protected by men.
I could go on with numerous examples but I think the picture of this world is understood. And Kirkman is so wealthy and successful from this work that my brief complaints about it will hardly damage his reputation or influence anyone, so it was a relief to have a brief rant.
And now to read everything Noelle Stevenson has ever produced.