Nimona Review: Turning Comic Books Upside Down

Heroes are pure, villains are dastardly, and that’s just the way it is. Until now. Based on her hit webcomic series, Noelle Stevenson turns the archetypes on their head with “Nimona.” The good guys aren’t really that shiny, the bad guys have hearts, and things aren’t quite what they seem. With its uniquely “soft” art-style and delightfully nontraditional dialogue, Nimona shows that a story absolutely doesn’t need to follow the rules in order to be a great read. 

Published in 2015, the story sees Lord Ballister Blackheart, prototypical villain at large, doing prototypical battle with The Institution, using prototypical villainy, opposite his prototypical archnemesis Ambrosius Goldenloin. Into his life appears the eponymous Nimona, a sassy, shapeshifting wannabe sidekick. She wants to assist him in his supervillainy, but he isn’t quite as evil as she feels he should be. With SCIENCE at his side, Lord Ballister Blackheart seeks to show the world that The Institution isn’t quite what it appears to be, while Nimona simply seems to desire chaos and anarchy. 

The key to “Nimona’”s success is its cartoony art style and modern dialogue. Stevenson takes great care to take every standard plot point and turns it on its head, and the art reflects that. The humor is somehow subtle and in your face simultaneously, taking shots at the usual angsty back-stories and character interactions. Its art style allows for the reader to not subconsciously take sides, as both hero and villain are drawn in the same way, with no difference in their visual aesthetic as typically found in comics and similar visual stories. 

The issues with Nimona come with its inherent structure. While it makes inventive use of inverting typical story arcs and characterizations, it remains rather predictable for anyone decently knowledgeable in fiction. While this isn’t a tremendous strike, it does take away a bit from the ‘surprise’ factor when characters hit their atypical story points. 

While the overall plot can come across as mildly reductive, it hardly takes away from the overall appeal of the story. It’s funny without being silly and really has a good heart. It’s a light read, very enjoyable for anyone who can appreciate a laugh and doesn’t take traditional storylines too seriously. Go into it with an open mind and you’ll be sure to enjoy it. It’s lighthearted fun, something everyone can use once in a while. 

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