RECAP/REVIEW: Niobe #1: “What Haunts You?”
I was excited when I heard about this comic for two reasons. One: Amandla Stenberg described this as ‘badass’ feminist comic and I’ll check out anything that is openly described as such, and two, the main heroine is a biracial elf named Niobe Ayutami. A woman of colour being the lead had me excited, considering how rarely we see women of colour as heroes of their own stories, especially in the fantasy realm.
You excited as I am? Let’s begin!
The comic creates a sense of tension from the starting moments. The main character, Niobe, expertly navigates her way through a forest as she escapes from a shadowy threat in the background. When her pursuers finally catch up to her, she’s followed a dragonfly into a crystal blue lake. What’s she running from, and why does she have nowhere to go?
A deathly pale woman tells Niobe that her father needs her, but Niobe isn’t interested: all she wants is his death. The pale lady looks anything but trustworthy, and chasing someone through a forest on horseback with goons behind her doesn’t exactly do much to alleviate that impression. Maybe to her credit she stops one of the goons after he shoots an arrow at Niobe—by chopping his head off. I’m caught between this being her warped idea of protection, or her just following orders to the extreme. Niobe vows to kill her father but the pale lady only tells her that death is not eternal (is there immortality is this world? Or is she just referring to an afterlife?). Niobe jumps off a cliff instead of listening to her.
She wakes up on a rock, miraculously unhurt but half convinced that all the gods have abandoned her. A man with a bushy beard appears and informs her that she is late. For what? She doesn’t know; his cryptic messages aren’t all that helpful. The bearded man’s entourage doesn’t have much faith that Niobe can scale the face of the cliff to reach them. The voice of a goddess tells her that they are afraid of her, only knowing the lies that have been told about her. The men are clearly afraid of the power she holds and this is something that easily translates to real life. We wonder: what stories have been told about her? Why do they leave the men so afraid? Some people will do anything to drag a woman down.
On arriving at the top of the cliff, beard guy invites her to pray with them. Some of the entourage protest—it is usually the men who pray and go on the hunt—but beard guy quickly shuts them down. One of the guys ends up dying in the hunt, and while it’s not exactly clear what happened, the voice of the goddess tells us that “not all beasts are helpless.” The beginning of a mystery perhaps?
That’s all for the first issue. I felt like we really got a sense of Niobe’s character in just as much what wasn’t said as what was said. I’m looking forward to finding out more about the dynamics of the world: who are these gods and goddesses? Do they interact with the people? Are they in competition with each other? We’ll have to wait until the next issue to find out!
Publisher: Stranger Comics