Review by Heather Valentine
Nimona was originally posted online by writer/artist Noelle Stevenson as a webcomic, but when she reached mainstream publishing acclaim through her work on Lumberjanes, Nimona was picked up by HarperCollins.
One of the main draws of the book is Stevenson’s unique and charming art style, with its appealing pastel colour scheme and clean, simple approach to line and clarity. This lends itself well to the humour found throughout the book, but is equally applicable to the more serious later parts, due to Stevenson’s illustrative talent and a mastery of expressive characterisation.
Nimona’s webcomic origins are apparent in the early strips – it’s not quite joke-a-day, but the pacing is much slower. At the start, you can imagine a version of Nimona that went on to be a never-ending slice-of-life comic about a villain and his sidekick doing Villain Things. Once the book has set up all its playing pieces, though, and introduced all of the important characters and ideas, it sharply ratchets up the tension, plot and character dynamics by committing to a tight, focused story that becomes darker and darker as the book spirals towards a climax.
If the early strips take influence from slice-of-life webcomics, the core of the overall writing takes pages from the best that fanfiction has to offer. It focuses very strongly on the relationships between the three main characters, impulsive teen shapeshifter Nimona, villainous mad scientist Ballister Blackheart and supposedly heroic knight Goldenloin, with the plot serving as an avenue to place them in situations that test them. It also asks questions common to fan commentary on popular works – what if the villain is really a misunderstood good guy? Do these characters hate each other, or love each other? What if this character is acting this way because of a dark secret in their past?
Though Stevenson’s strong wit remains a force throughout the story, it’s a testament to her talents as a writer that the book’s transition into a more serious tone works, with the ending and the ultimate fate of the three main characters having a strong emotional impact.
Readers not fond of cutesy art or fan-fiction-influenced writing may find Nimona doesn’t live up to the hype.Those who do find it to their taste will find themselves reading a very sweet book that is in turns heartwarming, hilarious and tragic, all the while being gorgeous to look at.