“Just a girl. Famous last words. Say hello to a girl of prey.”
—Nico Minoru (Moore, Runaways #9)
“Try not to die.”
—Nico Minoru (Vaughn, Runaways #7)
Last month, I wrote a meta about Karolina Dean from the Runaways, and this week, I’m writing about Nico Minoru.
Who I adore with every fiber of my being.
(Actually, understanding Nico may have caused me to like Karolina a bit more. *whistles*)
But—second verse, same as the first—Nico Minoru first appears in 2003 as a member of Brian K. Vaughan and Adrian Alphona’s Runaways (Comic Vine) and is sweet and shy and kinda darling in her Elegant Gothic Lolita outfit—don’t call it Lolita though because, rightly, Lolita is a completely different aesthetic, and Nico will rip your face off (Cage Avengers Academy #27)—that she made herself (Vaughan 17), which is the first indication of Nico breaking Western notions of the superhero and her creativity.
Nico is ethnically Japanese—making Nico one of the few Japanese leaders of a super-hero team (Wikipedia)—raised in America, raised Christian, yet she’s into SciFi and Japanese fashion (Although, Nico’s always really into punk too, so she kinda ends up looking Gothic Punk Lolita a lot of the time, which is also good.) and, yes, makes her clothes herself.
And, when the Runaways find out their parents are the super-villains The Pride, Nico discovers that she’s also a witch.
Which is really neat.
Now, here’s the thing, the kind of witch that Nico (apparently) is happens to be a very Western notion where magic is wielded through enchanted objects—in this case, the Staff of One—however, Nico kinda looks like she escaped from a Shōjo manga like Cardcaptor Sakura, which is kinda walking that line of potentially racist stereotype but which manages to veer out of that because Nico makes her own clothes (since the constant struggle with being any type of Lolita in the West is the lack of readily available Lolita clothing lines) as well as, despite her father being a sorcerer, it seeming that magic is matrilineal since Nico’s mum and great-grandmother were both practitioners, and we see the literal (unintentional) handing off of the Staff of One (Marvel Wikia).
There might also be that the Staff of One has a very specific almost Dungeons and Dragons-like glitch: it can’t perform the same verbatim spell twice without there being some sort of weird side-effect.
Like saying “Freeze” and getting a flock of pelicans (Comic Vine).
Which means that Nico has to be clever with how she chooses her spells—and needs to learn new words and languages and ways to put words together—it also means that she doesn’t always know what’s going to happen.
If that doesn’t make perfect sense for a teenager who is—by definition—always experimenting and rarely knows what the outcome will be, I don’t know what else does.
Nico as metaphor: already in-progress.
(The Staff of One also needs a sacrifice of Nico’s blood to work, which is probably the first time in the History of Comics that a woman’s period actually makes their superpowers more effective.)
But, this is barely scratching the surface of what makes Nico amazing because she survives Murderworld—and manages to keep Chase alive in the process; although, Nico fails to keep herself alive and is resurrected by the Staff of One because bleeding out constituted enough of a blood sacrifice to make it work, which the Staff replacing Nico’s severed arm with a magical gauntlet “witch arm” is an interesting thought and means that Nico is, in a very real way, an amputee with a well-functioning prosthetic—and her great-grandmother the “Witchbreaker” who tortures Nico ostensibly to allow Nico to wield stronger, better magics (or, just because) when Nico and the rest of the Runaways get time-displaced into 1907 (Wikipedia).
Nico survived the Skrull Invasion and Civil War (and Ultron; Comic Vine).
Nico is apparently on the list to be the next Sorcerer Supreme (Wikipedia).
Nico is the reluctant leader of the Runaways because someone has to.
Nico is well aware that she is epically screwed up by everything that’s happened to her since she found out that her parents were super-villains and even says that
“Most girls probably daydreamed a little about killing their first boyfriend. Teenage boys, you know? It’s only natural. The difference with me is…I sort of did kill mine. Long story, but Alex betrayed my friends. He sold us out to his evil parents and then tried to talk me into joining them. May Alex dying wasn’t 100% my fault…but he died that day, and I didn’t. Never really got over that.” (Hopeless Avengers Undercover #7)
Nico is like emotional with a capital-EMOTIONAL, but she also keeps it as under-lock-and-key as she can, and when the world’s falling apart because you’ve had to let your boyfriend die and one of your BFFs is off to an alien world and your other BFFs’ dinosaur tried to eat you (again) and evidently YOU HAVE TO BE THE ADULT IN THE SITUATION BECAUSE SOMEONE HAS TO, Nico finds ways to deal, to cope, to distract herself.
The fact that she chooses kissing boys to distract herself with just tickles me because it’s such a teenager thing to do but still something that a lot of us do into adulthood.
(The kissing thing, not necessarily the boys thing. Kissing girls and non-binary people is good too.)
And, the fact that Nico doesn’t have time for anyone’s slut-shaming is just cake.
But, most importantly, Nico has these amazing friendships with Gert and Karolina, which I swear Nico and Gert’s friendship only makes sense if you’ve had a BFF with whom you are so completely like while being so completely opposite, where the insults fly because having a massive temper is one of those things that you share but you still are totally in awe of the shade that they’re throwing on you because damn.
Then, your everything is rain-right again.
With Karolina, their friendship is so much more of the nurturing, warm-and-fuzzy variety, which is still really important.
All of Nico’s woman-to-woman friendships are important, but these two—Gert and Karolina—are Nico’s foundational friendships that inform so much of who Nico becomes as a person and a leader because each of us are made up of our relationships—good and not-so-good and awful—and they help us choose who we want to become.
And, Gert and Karolina’s friendships—the goodness of them—are what helps to counteract the darkness of the person Nico’s parents were raising her to become.
Isn’t that all any of us can ask for?
Nico Minoru, Master of Snark and Incidental Magics, is here to turn over the kyriarchy in little bits at a time, is going to be femme because she wants to be, pragmatic and nurturing because she is, a leader because someone has to be, and fatalistic because—at the end of the day—Nico’s just a kid.
But, she’s a kid that’s growing and grown and whom we’ll be seeing very soon as part of the Secret Wars (2015) A-Force where Nico will be, once again, helping those who need a guide in a new world (Comic Vine).
Comic Vine contributors. “Nico Minoru (Character).” Comic Vine. Comic Vine Wiki. n.d. Web. 16 Nov. 2014.
Gage, Christos N. (w) and Christina Strain (a). “War With The Runaways, Pt. 1 of 2: Homecoming.” #27 Avengers Academy. (May 2012), Marvel. Digital Comic.
Hopeless, Dennis (w) and Francesco Mattina (a). “Gone Native.” #7 Avengers Undercover. (July 2014), Marvel. Digital Comic.
Marvel Wikia contributors. “Nico Minoru (Earth-616).” Marvel Database. Marvel Database, n.d. Web. 14 Mar. 2015
Moore, Terry (w) and Takeshi Miyazawa (a). “Rock Zombies.” #9 Runaways. (April 2009), Marvel. Digital Comic.
Vaughan, Brian K. (w) and Adrian Alphona (a). “Pride and Joy.” Runaways Collected Edition (September 2011); #1 Runaways (July 2003), Marvel; #2 Runaways (August 2003), Marvel; #3 Runaways (September 2003), Marvel; #4 Runaways (October 2003), Marvel; #5 Runaways (November 2003), Marvel; #6 Runaways (November 2003), Marvel. Digital Comic.
Vaughan, Brian K. (w) and Takeshi Miyazawa (a). “Star-Crossed.” #7 Runaways. (August 2005), Marvel. Digital Comic.
Wikipedia contributors. “Nico Minoru.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 23 Feb. 2015. Web. 14 Mar. 2015.