Nubia: Real One – L.L. McKinney, Writer; Robyn Smith, Artist; Brie Henderson, Bex Glendining, Colorists
Ray – 9.5/10
Ray: Another winner from DC’s young adult line, this book takes on one of the less-known characters in DC’s roster—Nubia, Wonder Woman’s twin sister and the first black Amazon to become a major character. But this title doesn’t take place on Themyscira like past Wonder Woman OGNs have—it grounds Nubia in a very real world of police brutality, misogyny, school shooting drills, and lighter themes like first crushes and overprotective parents. It’s one of the most human stories DC has told in a while, despite starring an Amazon icon.
When we first meet Nubia, she’s a junior in high school and living with her two moms—one an imposing and stern woman, one a gentler and more crunchy-granola type—who obviously love her, but are very careful to protect her from the dangers of the world. She has two best friends, one a girl dealing with harassment from a local rich bully and the other a boy who doesn’t really have much of a story arc but provides some much needed levity. And it’s hard to come by, because Nubia and her friends are dealing with some harsh realities.
This story takes place firmly in the modern world, with a young local having recently been gunned down while running from the police and a major protest planned. And racism is everywhere in some more subtle ways, with Nubia getting attitude from a clerk at a convenience store the second she walks in the door. But that same convenience store quickly becomes a flashpoint, as a robbery finds Nubia and her crush Oscar at gunpoint—and Nubia forced to reveal her powers in a dramatic scene that finds her in even bigger danger.
Creative team LL McKinney and Robyn Smith display great skill in wringing serious tension out of even the smallest moments. A post-robbery scene where Nubia is in the back of a police car delivers the issue’s most dramatic and painful scenes, and confrontations with her moms later deliver some powerful emotions that will be all too familiar for anyone who remembers their teen years. This book does an amazing job of helping us get to know Nubia before she becomes the hero we all know she will be in the future.
Wonder Woman is on the fringes of the story, and mostly shows up to clue Nubia in on her true origin and make her an offer later in the book, but this isn’t her story. The real heroes of this book are the four teenagers who risk their lives to protest police brutality and to protect each other from a toxic presence at school. If I have one complaint, it’s that the villain feels a bit over the top—it’s like the creative team took one character and made him represent everything vile a black teen might encounter in the world, and then dialed him up to eleven while escalating his poisonous presence throughout the book. Maybe that was the point—he’s less a character than a societal poison.
I don’t think this is the absolute best OGN DC has put out, but it’s absolutely in the top tier. It creates a new hero who speaks to the very real challenges girls of color are fighting against, and makes for a perfect companion to the equally excellent Wonder Woman: Tempest Tossed, which reinvented Diana’s story as one of a modern-day refugee. While all these stories take place in their own world, many of them complement each other. This line has a good chance of being DC’s most influential new line in the last few decades if it keeps this quality level.
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GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.