In the Limelight

We’re told not to judge a book by its cover, but comic books and graphic novels rely on attractive covers to entice potential readers into making a purchase to read their stories. In the case of Malika: Warrior Queen Part One, the cover sold me. That and the author’s intriguing synopsis of the graphic novel.

Set in West Africa during the 15th century, Malika is the queen and military commander of the kingdom of Azzaz. She’s trying to attain peace in her empire but is being hindered by threats from within and out of the kingdom. Malika gained the crown from her father under dramatic circumstances, which split allegiance in the kingdom and created tension within her inner council. Making things more complicated, their region has also been infiltrated by the powerful Ming Dynasty.

Dealing with threats from several sources makes Malika’s life rather complicated, but she handles it with militaristic wisdom and savvy. At each turn, she receives pushback from advisors and council members, but continues to find wise courses of action. Her bravery and intelligence make the reader cheer every time she proves them wrong.

Though war is a big part of the book, it’s not relegated to a simplistic barrage of swordfights. The characters are realistic and interesting, which is shown through their interactions in court, in private, and on the battlefield. The dialogue is smooth, flowing naturally without any lengthy speeches or choppy transitions.

Simply put, Malika: Warrior Queen is a very good story. Writer and character creator Roye Okupe developed a dramatic, engaging story that is emotional and exciting. Malika is an honorable heroine who also happens to be delightfully tough. It’s the type of comic that can be enjoyed by most audiences.

The artwork was created through the team of Chima Kalu on pencils and inks, Raphael Kazeem on colors, with additional colors by Osas Asemota, Omotuyi Ebota, and Collins Momodu, and cover and concept art by Godwin Akpan. The character renderings are fairly realistic, showing a comprehensive range of expressions and accurate body compositions. The action is energized, portrayed through clever use of angles, closeups, and wider shots. Panels are mostly boxed, constructed with sharp corners, but with lots of variety to keep each page fresh. The colors strike a nice balance between the vibrancy of clothing and battle gear, with the rich, earthy notes of the natural landscape.

Though the world of Malika is fictious, the book references real African history by mentioning different empires and locations. Each chapter opens by establishing background details on the areas in that issue, followed by facts about the real regions and landscapes that serve as inspiration.

Malika was published by YouNeek Studios, as part of the interconnected YouNeek YouNiverse with the E.X.O. and Windmaker titles. But, though they connect, each book features a self-contained story, so readers don’t need to be daunted by a large reading list. Additionally, each title has its own style, including science fiction, mythology, and action-adventure. Malika was my first foray into the YouNeek YouNiverse and I’m looking forward to her next book and checking out the other titles.

Malika: Warrior Queen Part One is a 144-page full color, softcover book. It retails for $14.99. For more information, visit youneekstudios.com.

-Amanda Sheriff