Author: Noelle Stevenson
Publisher: Harper teen
Published: Out Now
RRP: £8.99 Graphic Novel Trade Paperback
Nimona is an impulsive young shapeshifter with a knack for villainy. Lord Ballister Blackheart is a villain with a vendetta. As sidekick and supervillain, Nimona and Lord Blackheart are about to wreak some serious havoc. Their mission: prove to the kingdom that Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin and his buddies at the Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics aren’t’ the heroes everyone thinks they are.
I first became aware of Noelle Stevenson through Lumberjanes one of the finest, sweetest and funniest comics out there so when I heard about this earlier work I was intrigued. I’m pleased to say it proves to be just as enjoyable and intelligent as her other work. Plus you know dragons....
The life of the villain can be monotonous – painstaking planning, plotting and the costs for henchman only to be defeated as per usual by a shiny gold armoured, blonde haired and ever so noble hero. Lord Ballister Blackheart long suffering of this narrative convention we first meet suddenly finding himself with a new henchwoman offering to join his team (of currently one). Once however he finds Nimona can also handily shapeftshift into any person or creature a potential new tactic emerges.
This is not your standard medieval fantasy. Although we have medieval dress magic, and armour, we also have TV channels, science fairs and a sinister laboratory. This is a beautiful mash-up of the genres and also interrogates why exactly the villain is classed as the villain. Blackheart despite the labelling by the mysterious Institute we find has a more nuanced code regards murder and his reasons for evildoing. Nimona...well she seems to just want to kill and destroy them for reasons unknown...
The Blackheart/Nimona scenes I would say are worth reading this alone balancing double act humour, heart-warming scenes as Blackheart starts to realise Nimona is more than just a henchwoman to those moment when the two really fight and put each other’s lives on the line. In addition, the very complex relationship Blackheart has with his nemesis Sir Goldenloin his constant thorn in his side and former friend (or possibly more). Over the course of the story we see character development in each of this trio and how they react to the roles they are placed in. Under the surface of the main story we also get a reminder that our lords and masters may not always have our best interests at heart and to be wary of propaganda. This is not a comic preaching but it is making some pointed comments about power very relevant for our time. While these are serious points there is a tonne of humour although I side with Blackheart that anchovies on pizza are the best!!
Stevenson’s very colourful and alive artwork also matures alongside the story moving from early chapters more focused on the main character’s double act to a darker story as we finally see what the Institute’s endgame in and the story takes on a darker shade as we wonder who will survive. Subtle colour changes reflect the tone and also help us identify Nimona when not in human form.
So if you are possibly suffering from Superhero fatigue but would like a new comic to read that will make you laugh, tear up and cheer I think Nimona is completely up your street.