I love Nola. I know that you’re supposed to keep a level of objectivity for reviews, but she makes it hard. She is so much what I want all comics heroines to be. She’s spunky and inquisitive, but not so much of a tomboy that she ignores her emotions. She wants to know if the new kid likes her, or how long her mom is going to pretend their lives are okay by working all of the time. Things affect her and she reacts with the most animated expressions, in face and body, which allows the reader to empathize immediately.
Her story starts off similar to a lot of elementary schoolers. She has her close friends and is at eternal odds with school and their pesky requirements of paying attention and remembering homework. Nola is far to busy having adventures to be bothered with trivial hindrances like hall passes. Though most everything takes place in her head, the dreams she holds are so wondrous it’s always fun to be taken into her schemes.
In a turn of events that only Nola could have predicted, her home of Alta Donna starts having its own problems with keeping up reality. The problem started when two new kids, a brother and sister, showed up at Nola’s school. Everyone else accepts them, but Nola knows that there is more to their story. Her poking around will unveil Alta Donna’s deepest secrets. Discoveries that will carry the reader through three volumes of adventures which challenge our beloved characters and more than anything, speak to the power of imagination.
There’s no other word for the art but gorgeous. The entire team of MiniKim, Mariolle, and Pop hold nothing back. MiniKim and Pop hold art responsibilities, and perform a stunning job. Every character and scene has a purpose. There are no buildings that just recede into the background. Every structure is someone’s house or business, and is lushly decorated as such. The character designs are just as detailed. Though all of the characters have similar shapes thanks to the cartooning, their décor and expressions leave no reader confused as to who is who. A lot of that distinction is thanks to the animated quality of the body language. Nola in particular is a very active person, so not only is her face always contorted comically, but her body is. Seemingly always in mid-run, her limbs are flailing away from her person with fantastic purpose.
While the character design is immensely engaging, the stunning gem of Nola’s Worlds is the color. The use of color in these books makes them sing. In all three books, there is hardly an instance of black. Even the characters are outlined in color as opposed to black line art. Every inch of the page is steeped in a spectrum of colors; it’s almost impossible to accept while you’re looking at it. A testament to Pop’s ability is that she is so meticulous with the color choice that there is never a doubt where the characters are, or what they’re doing. The color use adds great life to the characters, but what really benefits is the scenery. Alta Donna is a corner of paradise the way MiniKim and Pop render it. An island town, it has high cliffs, dense greens, and broad views of the ocean.
As successful as Pop is, she is not the only talent on the team. As a result from a French comic team, Nola’s Worlds allows for some great crossover influences that American comics rarely experiment with. Nola’s Worlds owes a debt to animation influences, as well as manga. Nola has panicked sweat beads, or large fountain-tears just as often as any shojo lead would. What’s more, the page layout is approached so differently. It is still arranged left to right, top to bottom, but how the characters and items are placed on the page can be quite different. The most obvious change is that the gutters don’t matter that much. They’re they, but objects, people, and conversations will disregard them. Things are drawn into them, on top of them, through them, and while that is a new reading experience, surprisingly it works very well. It’s never crowded, but very kinetic, and keeps your eyes focused on exactly what the story wants you to see.
I want to go on and on about Nola’s Worlds, but we could be here all day. Suffice to say, Nola’s Worlds is an electric adventure of imagination and I’m so very pleased that it came to our shores.
Nola’s Worlds, vol. 1-3
by Mathieu Mariolle
Art by Minikim, Pop
Volume 1 ISBN: 9780761365020
Volume 2 ISBN: 9780761365044
Volume 3 ISBN: 9780761365051
Lerner Publishing, 2009