Ballister Blackheart, archvillain and nemesis of heroic Ambrosius Goldenloin, suddenly finds himself with a new sidekick – a young girl called Nimona. Nimona is a highly gifted shape-shifter – she can switch from shark to cat to dragon and back supersmoothly.
But it turns out the real villain at work here is Goldenloin’s boss at the Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics, who is plotting against the kingdom. In fact, the lines between good and evil turn out to be very much grayer than the names suggest – hatchet-faced Blackheart is actually quite warmhearted, and blond-tressed Sir Goldenloin is a weak and malleable pawn of the Institution. And for supposed arch-enemies, their bond goes back a long way, and is intriguingly fluid.
Nimona is a sharp-witted, punky, and determined protagonist, and one that is not quite the naif she first appears to be. And further compounding the play on stereotypes, Nimona shows herself to have more of a thirst for evil deeds than Blackheart does, as she eggs him on to commit acts of villainy.
I loved the world that Ms. Stevenson has created here: it is a full-blown medieval kingdom with knights, wenches, jousting and castles; but it also is equipped with the most up-to-date technology.
The illustrations, which are laid out in traditional panels, are focused more on the characters, who convey much with minimal lines, than on the settings which are as minimal as you might find in a black box theater. I found some of the details of the images a little hard to distinguish, and some of the type a little on the small side (getting old here), so I do feel like a larger format book would give the graphics just a bit more room to breathe.
Originally an award-winning webcomic, I think Nimona will be as successful as Ms Stevenson’s previous book Lumberjanes (BOOM! Box, 2015), and could well have the same middle grade crossover appeal as the graphic novels of Raina Telegemeier.