Thursday, January 29, 2015

A review of the absolutely wonderful web comic, NIMONA, by Noelle Stevenson. Loved it!

Nimona and Lord Ballister Blackheart. Art by Noelle Stevenson.

Nimona is a free web comic, written and illustrated by Noelle Stevenson, which was originally launched in June 2012. Rights to the comic have been purchased by HarperCollins, who are releasing a 272 page graphic collection on May 19, 2015, which will include an exclusive epilogue to the series. As of now, the web comic is still free to read, in its entirety, and can be found at

Nimona introduces us to Lord Ballister Blackheart, a former hero in training, who has turned to villainy. During a joust with his best friend, Ballister lost his right arm in a highly questionable 'accident', after seemingly prevailing in the joust. Rejected as 'damaged goods' by his mentors, he turns to the one avenue left open to him... Super science-based villainy! Unfortunately for Ballister, while being a more than capable scientist, he is a fairly incompetent supervillain. His former best friend, and current nemesis, the annoyingly heroic Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin (Hero-at Large for the Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics) constantly arrives to foil Ballister's most well planned schemes. When faced with such catastrophic setbacks, what's an upstanding criminal genius to do?
The answer to the question is, of course, find a suitably villainous sidekick.

I'm not a kid... I'm a shark! Interior art by Noelle.

One day, utterly unlooked-for, a young girl named Nimona walks into Ballister's life. Seemingly starstruck by the master villain, all Nimona wants in life is to be his apprentice, along with breaking lots of things and possibly blowing a few people to smithereens... While he initially doesn't want anything to do with the proposition, Ballister soon learns that the girl is a powerful shapeshifter, and the beginnings of a suitably villainous master plan start to form in his mind. Nimona might very well be the key to his final victory over those that have abandoned and rejected him. Unbeknownst to the frantically plotting master criminal, Nimona has a great number of secrets of her own, and might be a bit too much for Ballister to handle. Then again, who cares, as long as the annoying golden-boy Sir Ambrosius takes it in the pants!

Noelle Stevenson's story of a third-rate supervillain (whose heart really isn't in it, after all), who is suddenly catapulted to a level of success by the sheer elemental force that is Nimona, is pure whimsical goodness. Ballister doesn't want to be a villain, which is why most of his previous schemes failed; without the betrayal by his best friend and confidant, he would have never taken to the path that he currently walks. Despite his golden-boy facade, Sir Ambrosius is a little boy at heart, who doesn't want to accept the fact that he was the ultimate instrument of Ballister's downfall. All he wants is to have things go back to the way they were, and everyone to live happily ever after, a wish which he knows (deep inside himself) can never happen.

Nimona feels positively about robbing banks! Interior art by Noelle.

Into this backdrop of coerced betrayal and unfortunate choices walks Nimona, who is no stranger to hardship and betrayal, in her own right. At times mysterious, mercurial, and laugh out loud funny, she is an entirely engaging character that shines through the comic's landscape. Ballister and Ambrosius are both complicated characters, but Nimona's mysterious history more than trumps their intricate backstory. While the story has plenty of humor contained within its pages, Noelle explores many different themes with this release. All three of the main characters can be seen in the tragic sense, and the triangle that is set up between the three, only serves to reinforce this notion. The use of propaganda is also explored in the story, as the Institution paints one picture of Ballister and Nimona, Ballister attempts to respond, while a number of the characters attempt to interfere with Nimona and Ballister's newly formed friendship. All of this goes on through various press releases to the government sponsored media. While this strip could have worked on a solely humorous level, the addition of a detailed history for each character, along with compelling emotional interaction between the main characters propels it to another level. Nuanced, intricate, tragic, humorous.... these are all good terms to describe Nimona. A highly engaging story, one that is rock solid at every level, is another way to describe the release. Thank you, Noelle.

Ballister doesn't like breaking rules- but Nimona does! Art by Noelle.

Let's get to the art. Noelle's brisk, sketchy style entirely engages the reader's eye. It is, in equal aspects, cartoonish and whimsical, while her characters and the setting are highly unique. The action and movement are presented dynamically, while the emotional aspect of the various situations is poignant. Her character designs are all together her own, and carries over to her other projects (A Lumberjanes shout out! Go check it out!). Panel placement is used for maximum effect, and, overall, the strip flows along wonderfully. While having a number of flashback sequences and holiday specific interludes, none of these detract from the pace of the story. Instead, they are valued additions to the overall plot, which open up windows into the character's core personalities and motivations. Beautiful work...

Here's some final thoughts about Nimona... This work wasn't assigned to me, sent to me by the creator of the comic, or recommended in any way. I stumbled across it, and immediately fell in love. The story and art work hand-in-hand to create an entirely enthralling story, a story that has become a favorite. Whether it be the overall story that is being told, the visual depiction of said story, or the underlying influences that are present within Nimona, I've become a wholehearted fan. If you want a little fun and whimsy in your life, check this out. If you want something more intricate, murky, and weird in your life, you should also be reading this. All in all, this was an entirely enjoyable and nuanced series, and I'm hoping for many more stories set in this universe, with these characters. Highly recommended...

The main cast of our tale. Art by Noelle.

Well, here we are at the end of another review, where I urge you to go out and buy the wonderful release that I just wrote about. Urge, urge! Go out and buy, buy! Seriously though, the collection won't be out until May 2015, so head over to and read it for free. If you want to experience the release with all the bells and whistles, head over to Amazon, where the hardcover collection is available for pre-order (and it includes an all new, exclusive epilogue to the story). You know you want to! That's it, time for me to sign off... Happy reading, all!

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