Nimona by Noelle Stevenson

Nimona is a relatively new comic by Noelle Stevenson, also known as gingerhaze on tumblr, that straddles the genres of fantasy and superhero fiction in a way that is both new and fresh.  Focusing on the exploits of registered supervillain Balister Blackheart and his newly acquired sidekick, the brash and plucky Nimona for whom the story is named, Ms. Stevenson’s comic is a fun and clever experiment in world-building, with clever dialogue and a charmingly unique style.

  • Genre: Sci-fi/Fantasy/Adventure/Comedy
  • Plot:

The world of Nimona is an interesting mashup of medieval design and chivalry mixed with technology and law enforcement reminiscent of 1940s Batman comics.  The eponymous Nimona, a reckless shapeshifter with a love for mayhem, has haggled her way into an apprenticeship with the famous and esteemed Balister Blackheart, a villain who with a surprisingly strict moral code.  Nimona’s taste for violence and her efficiency at doling it out soon clashes with Balister’s more humane methods, and it soon becomes painfully obvious that their motivations for a life of crime are much more complex than simple gratification.

Ms. Stevenson does a wonderful job of placing us in a bizarre world and making it seem familiar.  Within the first pages Nimona announces she was “sent by the agency”, meaning that not only is supervillainy a viable career path, it’s a privatized one.  Other facets of Nimona’s world include pillaging hordes of barbarians, secret laboratories, jousting tournaments, giant fighting robots, robotic arms, and magical enchantments.  The juxtaposition, no matter how incongruous, does work, as Ms. Stevenson envelops us with subtle exposition and visual worldbuilding that speaks volumes.  The writing is simple but clever, mostly focusing on the banter between Nimona and her mentor as they attempt to defeat Balister’s arrogant arch-nemesis, Sir Ambrosius Goldenlion (yes that is his name).  

Balister is a wonderfully written villain in my opinion, in that he seems hardly a villain at all, which makes his motives all the more intriguing.  Nimona immediately charms and delights even when she’s wreaking havoc because, despite the villainous things she does, her sense of logic and determination makes her course of action it seem so obvious, especially when we begin to see the corruption inherent in the hero/villain dichotomy.  It seems at the core of this comic is the concept that a person’s choices, rather than their purported intentions, are what truly make them heroic or villainous, with Nimona a chaotic but charismatic maelstrom in between the two.

  • Warnings:

Nimona is a visually tame comic, though it deals with some darker elements.  Overall I would warn for blood, death, fire, stabbing, and very mild (mostly implied) gore.  That’s pretty much it!

  • Art:

Many of you will recognize Ms. Stevenson’s art style from her numerous and popular comics circulating the internet.  Her style is a refreshingly cartoony and cute take on superheroes, relying on straightforward and memorable character designs that are eyecatching in their subtle detail, but also simple enough to allow for a lot of fluid motion and cartoon anatomy.

The use of color is somewhat muted, which works for the world Stevenson has set the comic in, a world of heroism masking great injustice.  The city is rendered in grays and dull browns, the backgrounds often unobtrusively dark-colored panels, which makes the reds of Blackheart’s cape Nimona’s hair stand out in stark comparison.

Perhaps the best aspect of this art style in relation to the comic is how Stevenson portray’s Nimona’s shapeshifting.  Varying from cute and comedic to surprisingly dark and visceral (like when Nimona takes the form of a wolf in the comic below), Stevenson makes great use of pacing, motion, and silhouette to suit the mood she’s trying to set.  The comic also features some beautifully staged panels, making full use of perspective and gesture, as well as minimal but beautifully rendered environments.  One of my personal favorite pages is among the examples below, in which we see many of these techniques employed, leaving the reader with a sense of melancholy and foreboding.

  • Final Recommendation:

Nimona is still fairly short and a quick read, but it has great potential and guarantees an engaging, entertaining, and evocative narrative.  For many people out there the concept of superheroes is cliched and overused, and to them I say please read this comic.  Not only is it a refreshing take on the concept of superheroes, it’s a dissection of heroism itself as seen through the eyes of someone to whom heroism has never been effective.

If you feel like reading something charmingly funny and inventive, with an added dash of brutal honesty and very unique art style, I highly recommend you read Nimona, and continue to read it as her’s and Blackheart’s saga unfolds.

Nimona is currently 4 chapters long (only 29 pages!) and updates Tuesdays and Thursdays.

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