“The Nameless City,” the new graphic novel by Faith Erin Hicks, published by First Second Books, is a fun and spirited adventure that is pretty breathtaking. Meet Kaidu, part of the Dao dynasty, and Rat, a “skral,” someone deemed less than human. The two of them could not be farther apart in the scheme of things. And yet they both end up crossing paths in the ancient Nameless City. If they listened to their elders, they would stay as far away from each other as possible. But sometimes you just have to break the rules.
Faith Erin Hicks is one of the most organized and precise cartoonists that I have come across, and determined too. That’s what I gather from doing some research and from just looking at her output, from her first attempts with her very first webcomic begun while still in high school, “Demonology 101,” (1999-2004) to right about when she fell on my radar with one of her more recent graphic novels, “The Adventures of Superhero Girl,” published by Dark Horse Comics in 2013, all the way to her current work. Looking at the artwork to this latest book, I marvel at how Hicks brings her characters to life. Her action scenes are totally believable. It feels like the characters literally jump from page to page.
Just take a look for yourself at the two page samples above. It has been said that a cartoonist may toil away for many hours only to have a reader spend mere seconds actually looking at the work. I don’t believe that really holds true when the art is of a certain caliber. When the art is a true visual treat, it can pull the reader in, make those scanning eyeballs slow down just a bit, cause the reader to go deeper. Much of what is going on in “The Nameless City” is a slowing down of time. The characters are caught in a cycle, one that has corrupted their logic and compromised their souls. Who wants to live in a nameless city, one forced to a fate of endless conquerers? The adults are living in a perpetual stupor. But the children yearn for more.
Hicks has been building up to this ambitious work. She has already created numerous graphic novels in her still young career. A story of this scope is remarkable for a cartoonist at any stage in their career. Hicks has honed her skills and picked up many lessons from her careful reading of manga. She includes among her favorite manga, “Monster,” by Osamu Kurosawa; and “Fullmetal Alchemist,” by Hiromu Arakawa. Well, her dedicated study has paid off. This is quite a sophisticated, accessible, and entertaining work.
“The Nameless City,” is a 240-page trade paperback available as of April 5th. For more details, visit MacMillan Publishers right here.
If you are in Seattle this Sunday, be sure to stop by and visit her at Emerald City Comicon at Booth I-04.