by Noelle Stevenson
Supervillain Lord Ballister Blackheart reluctantly accepts Nimona, an impulsive teen with a talent for shapeshifting, as his sidekick after she sneaks into the lab at the heart of his evil lair and begs for a chance to join him. Blackheart seeks to bring down the Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics, but the organization is defended by his archnemesis, Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin. They two have been locked in an evenly matched battle for years, but Nimona quickly upsets that balance. Suddenly, Blackheart’s goal is achievable, but he is disturbed by his sidekick’s ruthlessness. As the dark sides of the Institution and Nimona’s abilities are revealed, the line between hero and villain is blurred.
When we first got it into the bookstore, my boss shelved it with other children’s books. Neither of us looked at it very closely. It was over a month before I got around to actually reading the book – at which point I quickly realized that it’s definitely not for kids. (Characters named Goldenloin and Ballister? I’m surprised we didn’t get a parental complaint!) It’s definitely for a teenage audience – and for that audience, it’s a fantastic, energetic mashup of science fiction and fantasy. Nimona has action, adventure, drama, humor, heartache, and great characters.
Let’s start with the title character, Nimona. When she first pops up, she’s a hyperactive burst of youth and vigor, helping Lord Ballister break free of the routine into which he’s settled. But as pages turn, chinks appear in her bubbly armor, revealing something sinister and amoral. Her true self shifts as freely as her outer appearance, making her impossible to pin down. Thanks to Nimona’s meddling, Lord Ballister is finding a way to be the hero he always longed to be, but his sidekick may be a greater danger than the Institution he swore to eliminate? Meanwhile, golden boy Ambrosius – literally, he wears golden armor and his perfect mane of blond locks is never out of place – grows disturbed as he is asked to perform increasingly drastic tasks to protect the Institution’s secrets. This friendships and rivalries between these three form the heart of the story, as each member of the trio moves from hero to villain to something in-between.
The art’s great, too. Stevenson’s panels are bright and clean, conveying the story at a rapid Saturday morning cartoon pace. The characters all have distinctive appearances. I loved the way Nimona’s punkish shaved head reflecting her anarchic nature, and that grizzled Blackheart and handsome Goldenloin matched the fantasy-world tropes of golden hero and dark villain so perfectly. You knew what each character was like the moment he or she appeared. The only weird thing? I was occasionally distracted by the characters’ impossibly tiny hands.
Originally a webcomic, the print version of Nimona includes revised art, a new epilogue not found online, concept sketches, and other bonus material. It’s one of the best comics I’ve read this year (so far) and I can’t wait to get it back in stock at the store – although this time, I’ll make sure we stick Nimona in the young adult or adult graphic novel section.
5 out of 5 stars
To read more about Nimona, buy it or add it to your wishlist click here.
Peeking into the archives...today in:
2014: The Supermodel and the Brillo Box by Don Thompson
2013: A New Adventure: Moving to Utah
2012: Otomen Vol. 1 by Aya Kanno
2011: Ghost Radio by Leopoldo Gout
2010: Off to Ashland for Oregon Shakespeare Festival!
2009: Random Ranting: Digital Textbooks Practical for College?
2008: Dragon Road by Laurence Yep