The YouNeek YouNiverse
Malika is a character within the YouNeek YouNiverse, created by Roye Okupe. Like the Marvel cinematic universe (MCU), the YouNeek YouNiverse contains individual graphic novels featuring characters whose stories can be read independently, but who can also be found popping up in other stories throughout the YouNeek YouNiverse. Dubbed “the MCU of graphic novels”, the YouNeek YouNiverse is doing for comics what has become so prominent in the movie industry be it Marvel, DC or Universal Studios.
What makes the YouNeek YouNiverse different from many other graphic novels out there is its focus on African characters, both historical and futuristic. Countries and regions throughout the stories are based on historical nations and peoples who existed long ago. Readers get an authentic feel for cultures and heritages to be found throughout Africa while still enjoying the fantastical elements of the plot.
Malika: Warrior Queen is the story of Queen Malika of Azzaz: a strong, capable leader who has reunited her nation after many years of civil war. Early on, we see Malika as a child and learn how she was raised from a young age to know the ways of war in order to become the ruler she is today. Even after all her hard work, new trouble is brewing on the horizon. The Ming Dynasty threatens to bring war on Azzaz if they do not aid in the conquest of Atala, and even within Azzaz’s own borders it is clear that many are unsatisfied with Malika as their ruler. Faced with the threat of a seemingly un-winnable war, Malika must decide whether to compromise in order to maintain peace or forge ahead even if such a path leads to ruin.
The story’s main question is one for which there are many different answers. What does it mean to be a ruler? Many of the answers are unpleasant. A ruler is someone who must continually strive to maintain peace and order, even if this means going to war. A ruler is often hated by many no matter what choice they make. The throne is an unforgiving and merciless position, leading the one who sits upon it to live a lonely life full of endless trials. In the midst of such a great responsibility, is it possible for a ruler to have a life of their own?
Malika provides a well-written narrative that connects you to the characters and makes you want to see where their stories will lead. Characters like King Bass the WindMaker and Malika’s right-hand man Abdul present differing but compelling arguments to Malika’s own views on leadership, causing you to wonder what decisions will ultimately be made. While the progression of events can be predicted rather easily, there were some unexpected twists scattered throughout which caught my interest and kept me reading. By the end of the last chapter I was disappointed that only Part 1 is available now, since I wanted to see what happened next!
If I was to provide a criticism to the writing, I would say that the story does tend to paint Malika in an almost too-perfect light. She is smart, strong, beautiful, a capable leader, and though she struggles with every major decision she must make, she always makes the right choice. When compromise would be safer, she takes the dangerous, morally right route. When all seems doomed, her military prowess is able to turn things around. All her enemies, whether large or small, are pure evil or selfish, small-minded people.
I believe Malika would be an even more compelling character if occasionally we saw her do the wrong thing for the right reasons or make a mistake with major consequences not only to herself, but to her kingdom as well. However, this imbalance may be due in part to the fact that this is only the first half of Malika’s story.The seeds sown by the last pages suggest even greater adventures in the next volume. Time will reveal where Malika’s decisions will take Azzaz next.
Is This Worth a Read?
I believe this book would appeal to a wide range of people. The illustrations are done beautifully and the layout makes the story easy to follow and an enjoyable read. Malika covers a wide range of genres, from fantasy to history to drama. There is both a large and a small scope to the events in this book, so whether you like seeing plots develop on a national scale or on a personal level you will find something to satisfy you. The characters are admirable and endearing with plenty of room for growth and development. This is not just a single book, but rather a YouNiverse that has plenty available to explore and enjoy.
If you want to read more with the characters from Malika, check out WindMaker – The History of Atala, which gives more backstory on both Malika and King Bass of Atala.