I told you I wanted to try to publish reviews more often, so here goes…
For this week’s review, we’re diving into graphic novels. Barnes and Noble recently held a Fangirl Friday in-store event, so naturally I descended upon my local store like a dragon ready to collect shiploads of treasure for my hoard. After all, not all treasure is silver and gold.
If you’re not familiar with Noelle Stevenson‘s work, you should really remedy that! She’s super talented, really funny, and completely adorable. If I ever meet her, I’m gonna have to resist the urge to pinch her cheek, grandma-style.
A few years back, I was introduced to her webcomic called Nimona. It isn’t available to read online anymore, but that’s because the book is out and you should go buy it. Now, on to the review.
Infamous supervillain Ballister Blackheart likes the way his life is going. He’s got a sweet secret lab, a bionic arm, and a dashing archenemy with whom he has uncertain ties. When a shape-shifting teenage girl named Nimona shows up unannounced in his secret lab, he briefly considers kicking her out.
Blackheart’s enemy, Ambrosius Goldenloin, is a pawn for the state, run by a shady organization called the Institution. When, in one particularly gruesome fight, Goldenloin beheads Nimona, Blackheart is heartbroken. But then Nimona resurrects, getting the attention of the Institution’s Director who wants Nimona dead and Blackheart out of the way. Blackheart confirms his suspicions about Nimona thanks to a local scientist, who may have created a machine that can contain Nimona’s awesome powers.
The Institution captures Blackheart, and when Nimona comes to his rescue they capture her as well, subjecting her to invasive testing. In her rage, a part of her escapes their containment. She goes on a rampage through the city, destroying the castle and killing the king and the Director. Blackheart borrows the scientist’s machine, binding Nimona’s powers while Goldenloin attempts to stop her. Blackheart rescues the remaining human part of her, but with the machine running she cannot bind her disparate identities together. Blackheart pulls Goldenloin from the wreckage of the lab just before it explodes, apparently killing Nimona.
While Goldenloin recovers in the hospital, Blackheart has one last chance to see Nimona alive before she disappears from his life. The two knights rekindle their relationship and Blackheart goes on to open a lab with the scientist who helped save the kingdom. Nimona, it seems, is gone forever.
How I found it: Barnes & Noble Fangirl Friday
Genre: Young adult; fantasy; comic
Does it pass the Bechdel test? No
Is it a standalone? Yes
So what worked? I love this book it’s SO CUTE. -ahem- I liked the character development. The art style is adorable, and the writing made me laugh out loud so often that my husband got tired of asking me what was so funny. The characters aren’t necessarily people you might meet in the real world, but their conflicts are. They’re so fantastic and yet so utterly human. I like that the ending didn’t tie everything up in a neat little bow, because life is sometimes messy and things aren’t always what we want them to be in the end, and I like it when books reflect that.
It’s also nice to see a female lead who is not conventionally attractive; Nimona is young, sure, but how often does that stop creators from sexualizing a character? She isn’t rail thin, she doesn’t have long blonde hair, she wears a mini-skirt, she swears, she is angry, she is powerful… she is not the elusive so-called ‘perfect’ woman; she’s more real than that. And she’s that much more wonderful for it.
Physically, the book is really high quality. The pages are thick enough but not too thick, the colors are vibrant, and overall it feels like an excellent investment for a paperback. As a migraine sufferer, I also really appreciated that the pages weren’t shiny enough to make my lamp glare off them.
What didn’t work? Some of the pages were a little close to the binding which made a few of the panels difficult to read, but probably only because I hate opening paperback books too far and risking cracking the spine. And, selfishly, I wish there were more to read. I want to know everything about Nimona. And yet, life doesn’t always give you closure.
Overall: I really enjoyed this book. On the surface, it’s a cute comic that’s a relatively quick and definitely fun read. But really, it’s an excellent look at relationships, heartbreak, forgiveness, character, acceptance, and so much more. It’s definitely worth a read.