The graphic novel Nimona has 2 main threads, both of which are interesting, but that don’t always work well together. Thread 1 follows Lord Ballister Blackheart and his struggle against the Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics. The main hero of the Institution, Sir Goldenloin, and Lord Blackheart have some personal history that makes this part of the story more interesting than just villain-hero antagonism. Thread 2 is Nimona herself. She somehow became a shape-shifter (her origins are mysterious, even to her), she has a grudge against the Institution/government (maybe they experimented on her at some point?), and she wants to wreak havoc.
The story shows Nimona showing up at Lord Blackheart’s lair and talking her way into becoming his side-kick. The set up suggests comedy as the two bicker, but Nimona actually wants to hurt people, while Blackheart does not want to kill anyone, just expose the Institute. Sir Goldenloin is sent to stop them. Eventually, the real villain who has been playing everyone against everyone else is revealed and destroyed. The part that didn’t work for me was how Nimona liked Blackheart enough to rescue him, but then turns around and, after he rescues her, rejects him and nearly kills everyone (including herself). Her involvement in both plots makes her unsympathetic in the end because, although she has reason to hate the Institute, her rejection of her involvement with Blackheart during the final battle makes her seem like the final boss villain that has to be killed. Granted, the story backs off of this suggestion in the end in a way that really does work well, but Nimona seems to remain unchanged in the end while everyone else works out most of their problems.
A review of a graphic novel with no mention of the graphic part would seem incomplete, so here goes that part. The art suits the tone and style of the narrative and characters in that it is a little cartoony and silly, but in a way that suggests the seriousness underneath. On the silly side, fro example, Nimona takes the shape of a news anchor to publicly question Sir Goldenloin”s codpiece. There is also plenty of fighting but rarely blood, so when blood does show up characters notice and comment. In the world of Nimona, cartoon people can get hurt and can die, and they do. The art and story work together to draw attention to these more serious moments, in contrast to when the main villain dies, there is no blood (the villain is vaporized). The villain’s death is both visually and narratively necessary but not serious. Both Goldenloin and Blackheart are seriously injured, and they both bleed. Their injuries have meaning, which is reflected in the conclusion and epilogue.
Overall, I liked this book more after I had some time to think about it. It’s though-provoking and also entertaining.