via Stranger Comics
Whether it’s using her voice to speak up about topics like race and appropriation or just generally being a badass teenager, Amandla Stenberg doesn’t hold back. And while most of us were busy trying to figure out ourselves as teens, Stenberg already has several projects under her belt, including Niobe: She is Life which she co-wrote with Sebastian A. Jones via Stranger Comics.
via Stranger Comics
If you look at the cover, you’ll not only see her name but her likeness. Yes, the main character Niobe Ayutami is based on Stenberg herself, and she’s just as wise beyond her years in Niobe as she is in real life. I actually had a chance to pick up the first and second issues at Emerald City Comicon thanks to a chance encounter which was quite fortunate seeing as how I had only just learned about Niobe a week or two before via Black Girl Nerds. This was despite it being out since last September.
Niobe Ayutami is an orphaned elf running from her destiny and her past while simultaneously going through all of the trials and tribulations that teenagers go through like acceptance, belonging, identity, etc. Unfortunately, she also has to contend with being chased by the Devil. The reasons aren’t exactly clear yet, but Niobe is the key to defeating the “hordes of hell”, so it’s obvious why the Devil wants her out of the picture.
The first issue sees a lot of running on Niobe’s part. She’s running for her life from forces both good and bad, which lands her at some type of training camp with a half-orc and other elves, the latter not being particularly fond of her (or the orc for that matter). The first issue was a bit confusing as it seemed as though it began by dropping the reader right into the middle of things without much of a backstory. However, by the end I was heavily invested in the story, even if I didn’t always know what the hell was going on. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a huge problem, but it kind of gets you out of the natural flow of things because you will become curious, but you won’t have all of the answers. Perhaps that is remedied in the other Stranger Comics titles (more on those later).
The second issue focused less on Niobe’s past and more on her present and future. She gets to know more about her fellow “students” and why they think and see things the way they do. She also gets to show off some badass fighting skills against a massive beast. Just like with the first issue, Niobe #2 ends with one hell of a cliffhanger. The third issue is supposed to come out this month, and I can’t wait to read it.
The world in Niobe: She is Life (in fact it is called The World of Asunda) is indeed vast and multifaceted. There are three other comics, Dusu: Path of the Ancient, The Untamed, and Erathune, which contain a lot of information that will shed light on Niobe’s past, present, and future, so you may want to pick those up too. The art, by Ashley Woods, is often ethereal with a dreamlike quality that is perfect for a fantasy comic about a teen elf learning to find herself and the strength to confront her destiny. It may have taken a bit to pick up steam, but once the story got going, it was full steam ahead. Ultimately, I judge a comic by whether or not I want to know what happens next (among other things), and I definitely want to know what happens next.