Graphic novel review: Iyanu: Child of Wonder, Volume one

Credits; Creator, writer & art director: Roye Okupe

Letters: Spoof comics

Illustration: Godwin Akpan.

Publisher: Youneek studios

Total number of chapters: 5

Total number of pages: 115 (including non-story pages)

Release date: September, 2021

Genre: fantasy, adventure, mythology

Publisher price: online book stores sell $5.99 for the E-book version and $16.99 for paper back. You can also pay a monthly subscription of $2.99 to get it on the youneek studio app, along with all their other titles.

Note: As an unfinished story, this work is strictly being reviewed from the stand point of its present volume, with the hopes of enlightening readers on the general intricacies and potential of the story.


Youneek studios has truly turned out to be a remarkable comic book publishing and animation company here in Nigeria, with two of their published titles bagging awards, and another receiving the green light for animation by big shot companies; yes, in case you’ve been sleeping under a rock in the sambisa forest, word hit the internet a few weeks ago that our very own Youneek studios got the thumbs up, the glorious affirmation, the “take as much money as you need” executive go ahead to partner with HBOmax/Cartoon Network and produce a 2D animated series based on the graphic novel “Iyanu: Child of Wonder”.


    With this being our very first unchartered review, we felt it would only be befitting to launch a full-dive book review on the graphic novel, because quite frankly, not enough nerds in Nigeria have checked it out. So before you rush down to your nearest E-book app and binge read the first volume, let us at ONN tell you what made this book so amazing, that oyibo people had to say “nah, we gats animate this”.



With that said, let’s get right into the matter. 

Plot and setting summary

As everywhere on the internet will tell you, the story of Iyanu chronicles the life of a teenage girl, with no recollection of her past, spending her days learning the history of her people until she discovers hidden powers that furthermore get her into wahala (trouble) with the locals. As a result, she’s forced to flee home and go on an adventure of self-discovery –accompanied by friends, answering the call of destiny (you know? the kind where you have to be “the chosen” and stuff), with the hope of rekindling “the days of wonders” to a rather dysfunctional world.

The story starts off in the city of Elu, a place in the world of Yoruba-land. Elu is a fairly-developed city with eight regions (which I won’t get into as to not spoil too much for you), and a noticeable characteristic of having the strongest walls capable of keeping out “The corrupt” (AOT vibes). You see, the world or should I say, Yoruba-land used to be a place of “spiritual, structural and technological” wonders, before a great incident (aka, gbese) happened 500 years ago, turning the once glorious land into a shadow of its former self and the breeding ground for man eating animals/creatures. Fun fact, the meat of said creatures are poisonous, so meat in general is very scarce, only the Agoni can puri… ok that’s enough spoilers for one day.

A lot of people say the story amongst many similarities, gives off this “avatar: the last air bender vibe”, and to that I say “Yes!”; Young teen/pre-teen in a fantasy themed world is blessed with powers that rival every and anybody, as such, is hunted down by a paranoid, power driven man, forcing him/her to japa (run), because nna men, I know life is short, but eh no reach like dat (forgive me my prospective foreign country readers lol). Honestly, I can’t lie, the story does have a striking resemblance to the juxtaposed, I mean, she even has the glowing eyes thing going on.

For what it’s worth though, the plot is a commonly well received coming of age cliché, with the flavor of Yoruba lore, giving it a brand new vibe, so I say, it’s invited to the cook out.

However, just because it’s a culturally representative story doesn’t mean its critique proof, so now that y’all are brought up to speed plot wise, let’s jump right into my personal favorite, the analytics.

Review Analytics

I know many creators and art enthusiasts are going to be screaming at this, exclaiming that “one simply cannot measure the standard of another person’s artistic expression”, and to that I say, “you have a point, but I’m still gonna do it anyway”, cause the true quality of a work is not a function of the creator’s expression alone, but the nature of his delivery, the clear communication of his views, along with the pragmatic plausibility and consistency associated with his craftsmanship; plus, if all this talk doesn’t convince you, there’s always the fact that this is purely personal opinion, not law. Now that we’ve gotten that cleared up, here are the categories of analysis for our thorough review;

 Art critique

Narrative structure

Story guise and connotation

Entertainment value


Art critique

The holy grail of all illustrative-book reviews, we’ll be looking at the image style, drawing composition & Inference, overall layout and lettering.

Its illustrative-story writing 101 to have your art style rhyme with your narrative, as it inherently helps characterize the level of realism, comicalness or exaggeration your story is being inclined to, orienting your readers on how to assimilate everything; and as far as proper synergy between image style and story intention goes, Iyanu executed it immaculately. Honestly, this is by far where the book gets a majority of its accolades. It’s not just that the drawing was well done, it’s that, it was perceptively done; the gentle strokes, the unwrinkled detailing, and the majestic placid nature of rendering all contribute to the construed surreal feeling you get while you peruse through the book, in line with the whole fantasy vibe. It’s often a sign of master craftsmanship’s whenever the story of an illustrative-book is already being told from the first glance of its image style.

Next up, the ambience of environments and the quality of image to image interactions were nothing short of professional; the days were portrayed as such, with detail to characterize them, and the nights likewise. Every image was placed in proper perspective, meaning if it was the subject of a scene, it would be prominently shown, and if it simply contributed to the background, it would do so properly. Lighting for me was just one of those things I couldn’t get enough of, it was both realistic and filmic, pouring in a manner you’d expect in a world with magical attributes. In essence each picture’s detail &make-up (composition) greatly communicated intended meaning (inference).

Furthermore, insert-panels weren’t arbitrary done, they too creatively contributed to the stories orientation. Progression between panels/insert-panels were always in real time, as most movements between moments were seamless, with rarely any exceptions; the layout allowed for proper segue of reading progression.

As far as lettering goes, both text-font and speech bubbles were standard and creative. Words flawlessly balanced with their pared-up pictures and there were virtually no typos –except for that one time sha (though).

Narrative structure

Essentially; Plot-mechanism, Characterization, Thematic design


Volume one for the most part, employs a very linear plot sequence; rarely any flashbacks, just a standard progression of exposition to actions. Asides the first few pages, where we see Iyanu hunting, being bullied by other kids and a display of her emotion induced powers before an exposition from subsequent dialogues, the story just keeps going forward, till that snazzy plot twist at the end of the volume (hehehe).

 I feel it’s a very nice prudent set up, given the fact that the story’s plot is heavily based on the regression of Yoruba-land (the world in a sense), there’s bound to be a lot of exposes in the coming volumes on the previous state of the world, iconic historical events/people and what exactly went wrong; staying linear and establishing present circumstances will provide the proper contrast between “now and then”, helping readers efficiently gauge the gravity of disparity. 

It also sets us up for a very episodic nature of plot mechanism, as drama just keeps unfolding from chapter to chapter, from the internal crises in Elu to the character’s very own predicament, and I believe it’s all just getting started.


The line-up of characters is another thing not short of professional; I believe every area of the story has already started getting proper character representation, from the most profound cultural expressions of side characters to the bias politics portrayed by the very first antagonist of the story (spoiler alert: he’s got a very big secret he’s hiding, hehehe), everything that is to be communicated is being represented via a character, and this speaks volumes for me, because if this is the quality of plot-characterization in the beginning, then there’s a lot to look forward to.

Dialogue is another place of applause-worthy intentionality. Their speech patterns aren’t so much like the generic way of modern day Nigerians, instead, it has a refined, educated post-colonized Nigeria feel (if you feel me), plus the beautiful interjection of the Yoruba dialect contributed both to the magical vibe and the cultural representation of the story; Generally, everybody speaks good English (throwing away certain stereotypes). In a way, they talk like the people of the fictional nation “wakanda” (As portrayed in the movies), but still maintaining a lot of (Nigerian) colloquial speaking.

On the topic of convenience provided by a linear plot mechanism, the characters are being revealed quite nicely, in a slow and steady manner. We’re being introduced to characters that have importance/provide exposition for coming actions, keeping the story within necessary margins, and helping us label characters in respect to the level of their relevancy.


First up, let’s talk about representation. Every iota, miniscule and fundamentally small portion of the story is laced, interwoven and deluged with/in the lore of Yoruba; from dressing, to political structure, to history, everything screams the name of said ethnicity. The really cool thing is the complete absence of mediocrity –its profound; the story throws you into a realistic iteration of a magical Nigeria (Yoruba-land). It’s honestly the biggest reason I feel the executive producer that picked the work was instantly persuaded to take on the project of getting it animated.

But you see, I feel that’s just about the height of its general intrigue. Stay with me for a sec, let’s measure originality; ok, the designs are fresh, the representation is on point but the story being told is well, a rather well recycled one. Slow down o, I know what you’re thinking, “but I thought you said it has a brand new vibe”, I’m not taking back my words, I just have to point out this fact. The overall theme of a story is as much dependent on its creative representations as well as its choice of narration, and quite frankly, it’s the same old “chosen one” gist here. The cliché will be accepted worldwide because it’ll seem more as a means to extensively introduce Yoruba lore than anything else, cause as far as the plot goes, there’s really nothing new, in fact, they’ve just started the storytelling journey of excellently inculcating commonly used fantasy-adventure tropes into an eccentric ethnical feel, and for us here in Nigeria, the lore has been flogged one too many times by local writers (especially illustrative-book writers). However, I’d be a shady critic if I said that anybody has done it like this before. Sha (Anyway), it’s still too early to presume that the presented narrative-trajectory is indeed the one that’ll be adhered to till the end, but as far as volume one sets it up to be, there are a lot of clichés already; like omo “The chosen?” “The corrupt?” “Child of Wonder?” (These are only the mild ones sef) talk about being painfully generic.

Story guise and connotation

Now, in my book reviewing career of barely 20mins ago (I’m just kidding… or am I?), its been a professional critiquing etiquette to never draw conclusions on the connotations of an unfinished work/story-saga, so I’m just going to point out what the story has showed us thus far. Essentially, it’s the magic of Nigerian lore; the storyline in itself is still fleshing out, but the general storytelling structure has taken the extra effort to show us the beauty of extensively and creatively expressing our culture, and I feel that is worthy of praise and appreciation.

Entertainment value

Frankly speaking, this story is more than worth the price, and the fact you can get all 5 chapters on their app for a less than N2k monthly subscription, shows you how readily available it is.

Iyanu in all honesty, brought something new to the Nigerian illustrative storytelling table, setting the bar on a new height. That makes it more than just worthy of commerce value, but being labeled as a pioneering story in the industry, provoking improvement and growth, nerd-entertainment wise. I can confidently say that Iyanu has set a standard that should be adhered to, by anybody who wants to make it in the business. 

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I’m not particularly a man of fantasy, but I’m definitely going to be following the graphic novel closely on its subsequent volume releases (volume 2 will be out this September). I recommend the book for families and people that love the growing nerd-industry. As much as I don’t find the plot basking in novelty, and the number of generic fantasy tropes makes my eyes roll, the entire storytelling structure is a breath of fresh air; clichés or not, they’re telling a ubiquitous, generally relatable, well received coming of age story, on a new scale (Nigerian stories wise), in a totally brand new environment (general storytelling wise), and that is truly something “youneek”.

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