The Nameless City, by Faith Erin Hicks, Published by First Second Books, is a trilogy of graphic novels – The first one having been released in April – which centers on a young boy, Kaidu, a son of a general of the Dao forces occupying the city, and his friend, a young girl called Rat, as they bond and learn about The Nameless City – complete with its political intrigue. Joe recently picked up the first book, here’s what he thought…
In a sea of endless reboots, books with convoluted macguffin laden storytelling that barely manage to make you feel anything except a craving for more, and the notion that, in the realm of comics, nothing truly has an end – Save for some form of artificially hyped event that becomes meaningless, at best, after a few months, at worst, a few long years (Richard Rider). I may sound quite opposed to this form of storytelling, and I guess I am to an extent, but then, there’s a place for all sorts of storytelling, and sometimes it’s nice to drop in on your favorite character and see how they’re doing a few years down the line. Oppositely, it’s also nice to have experienced the full realm of a story. To pick up one book, or a trilogy, or seven, and once finished, know that everything that has happened, has happened within the entirety of these books.
“The Nameless City” is like this. It has an end, and we know this as it’s marketed as a trilogy, and I must admit, I favor books like this. But why should you be reading it? To start, the story is wonderful, focusing on a young boy – our ‘in’ to the world of the book – as he journeys to live with his father, General Andren, in the Nameless City, a place that has been fought over and occupied by many different nations for cycles. He trains under Erzi, the domineering son of the General of all Blades, and himself being the son of a general, doesn’t find himself very popular among the other students. Then he meets Rat, and it all changes as the two’s burgeoning friendship involves them in political intrigue, boot stealing and a bit of free-running. What I cannot praise enough is that it seems as though Hicks allows her storytelling time to breathe, as pacing wise – we are afforded time to really connect to the characters. The plot can sometimes be meandering, in the sense that it’s a slow burner and events are not on a cosmic scale – which again, is a plus – but this is absolutely not an issue, in fact it’s one of the things I adored. If you’re tired of books packed full of nonsensical and impractical plots, then you’ll love the straightforward and honest nature of “The Nameless City”.
The Eastern setting is fully realised and compelling and It is perhaps fitting that the co-creator of “Avatar: The Last Airbender” has a quote plastered on the front cover, for if I had to compare this series to anything, it would be that. Not just in aesthetic sensibility. But also in the softness to characters, the joy experienced in just learning about the world those characters inhabit, and also the thrill experienced in their own self discovery. This is something I find absolutely prevalent within manga, but strangely absent within western comics, perhaps only found within younger heroes books, where growth and self discovery are typical themes. There’s a strong hand guiding the worldbuilding here, and peppering interesting tidbits of history within the dialogue shared between characters. It’s vague enough to not feel forced, which is a testament to Hick’s skill.
Another comparison is to the works of Hergé, as I found “The Nameless City” to contain the same sense of adventure as his works, whilst also sharing the same graphical nature. Colours pop tremendously, with a palette ranging from pastel blues and yellows, moving up to pinks and purples, the colourist – Jordie Bellaire – has done a fantastic job here. I can also spy other similarities, there’s also a bit of Noelle Stevenson here, and perhaps a touch of I.N.J Culbard, but in short terms the artwork here is nothing short of stellar, and serves to tie the entire package together neatly. And the addition of a few character sheets at the back of the book really pleased the animation student in me; I’d love to see more in the remaining two books.
So, go out, find it in your local Waterstones, pick it up and experience it.
The Nameless City can be purchased on amazon and other good retailers.
Check out Faith’s site for her other works, and more news on “The Nameless City”.