“What if I cut off your arm right now? Then you’d see how fast the Institution would cast you aside. Just like they did me.”
“No. I wouldn’t. And I’m the villain. What do you suppose that says about you?”
Author: Noelle Stevenson
Publication: May 12th 2015 by Harper Collins
Summary from Goodreads:
The graphic novel debut from rising star Noelle Stevenson, based on her beloved and critically acclaimed web comic, which Slate awarded its Cartoonist Studio Prize, calling it “a deadpan epic.”
Nemeses! Dragons! Science! Symbolism! All these and more await in this brilliantly subversive, sharply irreverent epic from Noelle Stevenson. Featuring an exclusive epilogue not seen in the web comic, along with bonus conceptual sketches and revised pages throughout, this gorgeous full-color graphic novel is perfect for the legions of fans of the web comic and is sure to win Noelle many new ones.
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.
But as small acts of mischief escalate into a vicious battle, Lord Blackheart realizes that Nimona’s powers are as murky and mysterious as her past. And her unpredictable wild side might be more dangerous than he is willing to admit.
Nimona was the first ever graphic novel I found myself not only identifying with, but truthfully enjoying. I fell in love with the characters, the story, and the subtleties of the symbolism. The story was powerful and compelling, the characters captivating and complex, and the illustrations added so many subtle nuances to the beautiful story telling. I am head over heels in love with Nimona. I am in love, entranced, and never likely to forget the amazing graphic novel I just had the privilege of reading.
Nimona is the story of a young, punch-first-ask-questions-later kind of girl who wishes to join forces with one of the biggest names in supervillainy. Nimona and Balister Blackheart join together in order to bring down the Institution, the ominous presence lording over their daily lives. The Institution determines who is a villain and who is the hero. They run the kingdom, though there is a king. If you don’t fit the Institution’s mold, you are either a villain, an outcast, or a threat needing to be terminated.
Nimona is a shapeshifter with a troubled past. She can transform into any being at will – even make believe ones. She can be the fly buzzing around your head, the cat in the corner, or the little kid with the lollypop that makes uncomfortably long eye contact in the grocery store. She is no stranger to being used for her powers, and she refuses to let the Institution use anyone ever again.
Lord Balister Blackheart used to be part of the Institution. He was in training to become a knight. But, on the day of his last joust, his best friend and partner Sir Goldenloin, blows off Lord Balister’s arm in a fit of jealousy and, as we later learn, corruption. The Institution casts him out and brands him as a super villain and as the arch nemeses of Goldenloin. He has created a name for himself as one of the most powerful supervillains in the kingdom, and he uses his power for the greater good rather than the causes of evil like the Institution wants the kingdom to think.
Therein lies the central conflict of the story. Just because something is said to be good, doesn’t always mean it is so. Good and evil are all relative. What if someone were doing terrible things in the name of good? What if someone were doing wonderful things in the name of evil? Nimona highlights the gray area between good and bad and right and wrong in a profound and unique way. In Nimona, the “evil doers” show more care and love for the common people than the all-powerful Institution. This conflict comes to a head at the ending, when the Institution kidnaps Nimona and uses her as bait for Blackheart. The Institution tortures Nimona in front of Blackheart, and Blackheart in front of Nimona, until they both cooperate. The villains become the good guys. They become the ones so filled with compassion that they would do anything to save the other. Nimona sacrifices herself to the darkness she’s kept contained within her, and Blackheart refuses to let her die. It is a heartbreaking and ultimately satisfying final battle.
Nimona is a powerful story in a powerful package. It is bright, funny, innovative, and unbelievably unique. I am so lucky I was told to read this for a class, because otherwise I might not have picked it up. I usually don’t read graphic novels. I have nothing against them, and I think they’re fabulous, but they are not my usual cup of tea. I adored Nimona. I adored it and I will cherish this wondrous story for the rest of my life.