The second title in the YouNeek YouNiverse is just as gorgeous as its predecessor, the first volume of Malika: Warrior Queen, if not more so. The digital art is rendered with a colorful airiness reminiscent of manga but with decidedly African influences. And the use of color throughout is simply mind-blowing: Godwin Akpan is so majorly talented!
If only the storyline kept up quite as well with the illustrations. I have the general idea of where the plot is going, but the layers of story are too frustratingly opaque. Essentially, young Iyanu has been raised just outside the city walls of Elu by the wise woman Olori, who is skilled in eliminating a mysterious force known only as Corruption. But the death of Elu’s king sets in motion a power play by the new king’s chancellor Noru, that would eliminate Olori and Iyanu while doing nothing to alleviate the suffering of Elu’s citizens, whose welfare is championed only by much maligned foreign minister Uwa.
By the end of the book, I’d gotten an inkling of why Noru was pushing as hard as he was, but I’m genuinely surprised that Uwa is the only person not taken in by what’s an obvious con. Noru is so entirely shifty, making portentous declarations with only the vaguest of claims to back them up, that it makes everyone who goes along with him look hopelessly gullible. It’s one thing if he were speechifying to a desperate populace, but he’s mainly talking to the entrenched ruling class, who have the luxury — but clearly not the brains — to ponder his pronouncements and push back, especially when said pronouncements are clearly against their own interests. It is absolutely mind-boggling how cow-like the new king is in just going along with what Noru tells him to do. Maybe this is a plot-point later, but there are no indications that the ruling class’ submission is due to anything but sheer plot devicery.
In fact, of all the issues raised by this volume, the question of why Noru is such a dick is pretty much the only one that even comes close to being answered. Why does Iyanu have powers? Why are the city’s ruling elite so quick to claim that she’s performing “false wonders” when they can see with their own eyes that those wonders look 100% real? Where does Olori send her, and where is Biyi from? It’s kind of annoying to go through an entire multi-chapter volume that doesn’t bother to resolve a single one of its mysteries.
But I must say that I really dug MWQ, and the art here is so terrific, and the mission of the entire YouNeek YouNiverse so awesome, that I’m willing to give this obvious storytelling flaw a pass and look forward eagerly to the next installment. Tbh, this book felt a bit like half of an entire book — it was, as a matter of fact, about half as long as MWQ. But since it didn’t take much of an investment of time to enjoy, I’ll just go ahead and bank some time in the future for Volume 2, which will hopefully round this story out more fully, if not completely. The art alone is worth the price of admission, frankly. Brilliant use of color aside, it was always very clear who was talking or acting at any given time: the art actually did a lot of heavy lifting for the story! Mr Akpan is a fearsome talent, and having a whole book of his art to look at is a sheer delight.
Iyanu: Child Of Wonder Volume 1 by Roye Okupe & Godwin Akpan was published today September 21 2021 by Dark Horse Books and is available from all good booksellers, including