Dragons, magic, shapeshifting, feminism, diverse characters. Author Noelle Stevenson has turned her brilliant webcomic into a full-length graphic novel, and if you haven’t read either yet, what the heck are you waiting for?
Nimona and Lord Ballister Blackheart have teamed up as sidekick and supervillain. “Teamed up” is a term used loosely here; did Blackheart even have a choice? Nimona, a kick-ass young shapeshifter, bulldozed her way in and forced him to take her on. Her impressive powers of shape-shifting, with the ability to turn into any living thing, left him little choice. Seriously, what would you do if you were suddenly faced with a talking shark? With breasts, no less? (No kidding, just one of the brilliant images in the book. It makes me giggle just thinking about it.)
Ballister is out to expose Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin and the Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics for their villainous activities; Nimona wants to help him succeed.
But Blackheart has a secret and a problem. His heart is not actually black, it was just trampled on, many years ago. And once upon a time, Blackheart would have been a hero. But mistakes and jealousy and misunderstanding took their toll, and he felt forced into the role of villain. Always with an empty space in his heart for the man he thought turned his back on him.
And the corresponding problem is Nimona’s mysterious past and a yen for villainy and danger. She wants to help Blackheart be unbeatable, and she’ll use any means at her disposal. It is a combustible combination.
This is a poignant, gleeful, violent, humorous, subversive, heroic, irreverent, action-packed graphic novel about friendship and love and redemption.
Nimona is a wonderful erratically unpredictable character with a backstory that is revealed piece by piece, with each new tidbit letting the reader in on more of her secrets and motivations. Her loyalty and devotion to Blackheart are heartbreakingly lovely, even though she sometimes expresses herself in ways most would find socially unacceptable.
The dynamic between Blackheart and Nimona is endearing and absolutely hysterical. His deadpan humour and her overeager belief in total annihilation work perfectly to create a relationship that leaves readers in stitches one page, and on the edge of their seats the next, with tears always a possibility.
That relationship between Blackheart and Goldenloin is wonderful. The story of two people who had jealousy and uncertainty break them apart (well, and an arm severing, with no subsequent apology or acknowledgement of guilt, which can put pressure on a relationship), but truth and goodness and acceptance and respect bring them back together.
The violence is quite graphic (no pun intended), but the novel also has great themes of acceptance and friendship and morality and good and evil, while remaining fun to read. This is a fabulous story that follows through to a great ending, with nothing Hollywood about it. After you read it, you’ll want to rush over to Stevenson’s site and read more of her work.
Nimona was published May 12th, 2015 by Harper Collins.