Author and Illustrator Noelle Stevenson has succeeded at the complex feat of creating a story that is at once familiar and completely original. Her writing is comfortable but unexpected. The characters resemble tropes but then far supersede them. There is as much violence, adventure and excitement as one hopes to find in a graphic novel about a hero and a villain and yet at the center one can always feel a beating heart.
Ballistic Blackheart is the kingdom’s most notorious villain. His goal is to expose The Institution of Law Enforcement & Heroics for what it is, a sham. Although the organization is touted by the news and the society assumes them to be their protectors they have deep seeded corruption and evil.
Nimona presents herself to Blackheart as a sidekick. She wants to join the attack on the Institute and although she is a young girl, she has a unique ability that no one else can offer, she is a shapeshifter. At it’s heart this premise sounds quite serious but it reads like a comedy, think Dr. Horrible’ Sing-A-Long Blog.
As Nimona and Blackheart begin their attacks we learn more about both of their histories, they form a playful bond, and we realize that Blackheart’s one great weakness may be love.
Ambrasius Goldenloin protects the Institute and is Blackheart’s nemesis. The men trained together to be heroes but during their final battle Blackheart’s arm was cut out and the act changed the trajectory of his life. They have intense chemistry and with a few twists, and revelations on their history readers learn that there is more to their relationship then first meets the eye.
Nimona herself is an anomaly. One can never predict what she’ll say, where she’ll be or what she’ll become. A dragon, a shark, a cat, her hair changes as often as her mind. Even though pieces of her backstory are revealed with the author addressing the fact that she must do saying, “Aw man, do I HAVE to do the backstory thing It’s kind of a downer.” With Nimona, we never know which pieces of her stories are true and which are her invention. It’s a play on the idea that we never really know another person. This issue becomes paramount towards the end of the story when Blackheart must decide if she is a monster disguised as a girl, or a girl disguised as a monster.
Strong females fill the pages. Besides the strength of the Nimona character, there is also the fabulous Dr. Meredith Blizmeyer who is an inventor and scientist and The Director of the Institute who is completed obsessed with and focused on her work. Won’t it be a wonderful day when we are so used to reading strong female characters that we no longer have to write about it as a unique and welcome property to a story?
Nimona is a win all across the board. It began as web comic in 2012 and was published in the graphic novel book format in 2015. It’s no surprise that it was nominated for several awards including the Eisner and the National Book Award. It reads like a film in the best possible way, and is in production as an animated film with a release date in 2020.
This book is for everyone! Ages from junior high, men and women, boys and girls, anyone who already likes the graphic novel format to those with an open mind to give it a try. This should be in classrooms and libraries everywhere!
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Publisher: Harper Teen
Publication date: May 12, 2015