Faith Erin Hicks Offers A Glorious Tour Of ‘The Nameless City’ [Review]
The rise of Faith Erin Hicks and Jordie Bellaire in the last decade is easy to explain. Both women are insanely talented and ridiculously prolific. Bellaire's racked up hundreds of credits as a colorist alone since 2010. And since Hicks' webcomic Demonology 101 began in 1999, she's written and/or drawn everything from her own graphic novels like Friends With Boys and the Eisner-winning The Adventures of Superhero Girl to works by other writers like Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong (written by Prudence Shen) and an upcoming OGN with best-selling YA author Rainbow Rowell.
Now two of the hardest-working creators in comics unite with The Nameless City, the first in a trilogy of original graphic novels from Hicks' longtime publisher, First Second, as part of its tenth anniversary slate of books. How lucky we are as readers to get this incredible story full of sweeping detail, beautiful artwork and endearing characters.
On the River of Lives, between the three nations of Dao, Yisun and Liao, lies a city. Forever conquered and reconquered for its strategic location and its own wealth, the City cycles through so many names that the natives just ignore their changing rulers and call it the Nameless City.
Into this endless violence and apathy comes thirteen year-old Kaidu. The son of Dao General Andren, Kaidu--or Kai--comes to the City for military training. The only problem: he sucks at fighting and constantly gets his ass kicked.
While walking in the City with his father, Kai meets Rat, a streetwise native girl and an incredible runner. She agrees to train Kai in exchange for food; this leads to page after page of them racing over and through the gorgeous cityscapes modeled after 13th century China.
All these sequences are silent as is most of the book. With no narration or inner monologue, the reader is forced to absorb the art. At a time when most comics discussion praises only writers, this book reminds that in comics, script and art are intertwined.
Hicks, with her lush backgrounds and mastery of speed, motion and character weight, is in her element. As great as Hicks' skills are, The Nameless City becomes something truly special in Bellaire's hands.
As Hicks pointed out recently, Bellaire gives each scene a unique palette. It's thrilling to see the vivid greens of sewer water and the soft orange from the glow of a fireplace.
Besides incredible art, this story of life in wartime and the tension between the Dao and the Named (the Nameless City natives) is timeless and timely, touching on police brutality and culture clash in a very nuanced, poignant way.
It helps that Kai & Rat are incredibly likable and sweet. While every character is well etched, the City's the book's third star. It dominates everyone's sights and actions; its splendor and grime depicted so honestly.
This work of two talents working wonderfully in sync is a perfectly complete story and I can't wait to see what these kids get up to next.
The Nameless City is available digitally on Kindle and in print from a variety of retailers. A copy of this book was provided for review by the publisher.