Book Title: Nimona
Author: Noelle Stevenson
Style: Graphic Novel
Target Audience: YA
Genres: Fiction, Fantasy, Darkly Comic
Page Count: 272
Format: Hardcover (Library)
Reading time: 1 hour
Date Finished: 2/15/17
Click here to find it on Amazon (New window)
My impressions: That was fun! I picked up Nimona without knowing anything about it, and I have to admit that I was initially unimpressed by its art, which is sort of a cross between Adventure Time and old Leiji Matsumoto productions like Galaxy Express 999 and Queen Emeraldas – some of the characters are extremely tall and skinny, while others are short and round. But since this graphic novel is actually a collection of webcomics from a first-time creator that have been reworked into chapters, it makes sense that as the pages go on, the art gets much more ambitious and confident – by the end, the art style is actually a big part of the story’s charm, and it’s hard to imagine it being told any other way.
The story of Nimona involves a supervillain in a high-tech medieval fantasy world who unwittingly takes on a powerful shapeshifter as an assistant. This villain, Ballister Blackheart, is a disgraced knight who lost an arm in a jousting match gone awry with his rival (and secret true love), Sir Goldenloin. The shapeshifter is a girl named Nimona who sports a punk rock reddish haircut and a squat little body, but who quickly displays an aptitude for changing into just about any living creature one might imagine – sharks, dragons, dinosaurs, small children, cats or monstrous beasts.
As it turns out, Blackheart isn’t such a terrible guy; he’s principled and is really fighting an evil Institution that he sees as an oppressive force in the kingdom. Nimona, on the other hand, is a force of chaos, and though Blackheart tries to teach and tame her, he quickly learns that she’s not so much a girl that can turn into monsters, but rather, a monster than appears to be a girl. (Her true origin is never sufficiently explained, but she seems to be a symbiotic lifeform that somehow became entangled with a dying little girl.)
I have a lot of respect for how well-executed this book is. The story is funny. The characters are memorable. The scenes are creative, and the artwork is distinctive. The plot is surprisingly gripping and affecting. The world is unique and interesting, fusing the science and technology of today with the fantasy of chivalry and dragons and shadowy monsters. The romance in the story (between two men on opposite sides of the law) is a nice change of pace, and Nimona herself is an incredibly enjoyable presence on the page.
I’ll also add that I feel especially blessed to be reading so many graphic novels by up-and-coming female creators this year. It’s been a breath of fresh air for someone who’s read far too many superhero and male-oriented comic books, and I enjoy seeing such original stories, characters and ideas being developed in a manner that suggests a manga influence, but which is also not parroting that style directly and therefore feels distinctly Western in its approach.
Edit: I kept calling this book “Nimonia” in the original post. My apologies – I misread the character’s name in my mind and kept making that mistake as I continued reading!