Book Breakdown – Nubia: Real One Mixes Real Talk with Real Action

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Diana Prince, a.k.a. Diana of Themyscira, a.k.a. Wonder Woman, is the most famous Amazon to grace the world of man with her power and beauty. But she’s not the only Amazon to live in our world, and she’s not the only daughter of Hippolyta, either.

Nubia: Real One, written by L.L. McKinney with art by Robyn Smith, tells the story of the other Wonder Woman—Nubia, Diana’s sometimes long-lost twin sister—as a modern teen. Much like other teens, she isn’t sure who she is, and her reality is a whole lot more complicated than she’d ever expect!

To find out more (and get hyped about the fact that Nubia’s about to gain some new fans), keep reading as we break things down.

Cover Crackdown:

As a self-described, and extremely proud, nerd, I’ve worn very similar outfits to the one Nubia’s wearing on this cover, right down to the gauntlets. (Although mine weren’t nearly as official.) I love how this is both a nod to Nubia’s true identity and an example of a closet cosplay (i.e., dressing as a character with items you find in your closet, rather than creating an actual costume), and her nails are absolutely stellar (*wink*)…and far more fitting for a modern teen than the star briefs.

Tell Me a Story:

Nubia wants nothing more than to be a regular teen. She wants a summer job. She wants to hang out with her friends. She wants to go to parties and go to protests against racism and social injustice. She wants to talk to her crush without breaking out in a cold sweat or making a fool of herself. (Superheroes: They’re just like us!) But Nubia’s not a normal teen, and ever since she pushed over a tree as a child to rescue a neighbor’s cat, her mothers have drilled into her the need to keep her powers a secret. Nubia doesn’t even really know all that she can do, or where the powers came from.

But Nubia’s also not one to shy away from confrontation or stand aside when a wrong’s being committed, even if that means putting her truth out there for all to see.

Let’s Talk Art:

Nubia’s world is filled with a diverse group of people, and Smith does great justice to that diversity. White folk are the minority in Nubia: Real One, and BIPOC people are front and center—perfect for a graphic novel that delves into not only Nubia’s strength but the issues that all people face, specifically racism and injustice at the hands of authority figures. I particularly love Smith’s use of color, too, in not just the characters, but the panels as a whole. Some panels and pages are full color, where others are more limited to focus in on the action or emotion of a scene. The book also has a really cool watercolor-like style in places and the variations in lighting is impressive!

Dialog Discussion:

In using contractions, slang and intentional misspellings, McKinney has created dialog for Nubia that feels truthful and real. This is a book about teenagers and it would be awkward for them to speak like they’re defending their dissertation or reading a thesaurus before bed each night. McKinney also doesn’t shy away from dialog that reflects the diversity of the characters in the novel. Nubia and her friends aren’t white kids from North Dakota, and they shouldn’t talk like they are.

Additionally, McKinney—much like Nubia herself—doesn’t pull punches when it comes to being honest about the horrifying situations Nubia finds herself in, both because of a case of mistaken identity that leads to her being hassled by a cop and a peaceful protest that goes sideways. The truth isn’t pretty, and McKinney deftly shows that side of Nubia’s story without ever getting preachy or too “after school special.”

Perfect Food Pairing:

When we first meet Nubia, she’s drinking what looks to be a blue raspberry Slurpee. The color’s not exactly the traditional blue of Wonder Woman’s costume, but there’s something about the brightness that feels modern—I can see it being an update in Nubia’s eventual costume. I also think the sweet and sour blue raspberry flavor perfectly matches Nubia’s personality. She’s kind and sassy in equal measure.

Favorite Teen Titan:

Although Nubia was first introduced to comics fans in 1973, earning the distinction of being DC’s first Black woman superhero, some people give that title to Karen Beecher-Duncan, who became a Teen Titan in 1976. I’d like to think that Nubia, instead of being mad that people are trying to take away her title, would show support for her fellow kick-butt Black woman and consider Bumblebee her fave Titan. (But also fight for the fact that she was, in fact, first. She’s no pushover!)

Most Crushworthy Character:

There are a ton of crush-worthy characters in Nubia: Read One, so it was actually really hard to choose who’d make top billing. But I have to go with the adorable, understanding, super swoony Oscar—Nubia’s in-book crush. He’s obviously into Nubia from the start and not because of her powers. And even when he finds out that she’s more than just a normal teen girl, his feelings don’t change (and he reassures her that her secret is safe with him). He’s a Steve Trevor-like guy who’s not intimidated by strong women, and y’all know how I feel about that. (See my bio below if you’re unsure.)
 

Nubia: Real One by L.L. McKinney and Robyn Smith is now available in bookstores, comic shops, libraries and as a digital graphic novel.

When Mandy Curtis isn’t reading books by Leigh Bardugo or Sarah J. Maas, she’s dreaming of busting bad guys with Wonder Woman—if Steve Trevor’s there, too, she won’t complain—and writing about YA fiction and pop culture at Forever Young Adult. Follow her on Twitter at @mandyannecurtis.

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