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Sunday, July 5, 2015

'Nimona' by Noelle Stevenson

From the BLURB:

In this debut graphic novel from rising star Noelle Stevenson, based on her web comic that won the Slate Cartoonist Studio Prize and that had over 100,000 online followers before Noelle graduated from Maryland Institute College of Art, a spunky young shapeshifter joins forces with a medieval supervillain to wreak havoc on a kingdom where the good guys are hardly as good as they seem. For teens and a crossover audience.

The graphic novel debut from rising star Noelle Stevenson, based on her beloved and critically acclaimed web comic, which Slate awarded its Cartoonist Studio Prize, calling it "a deadpan epic."

Nemeses! Dragons! Science! Symbolism! All these and more await in this brilliantly subversive, sharply irreverent epic from Noelle Stevenson. Featuring an exclusive epilogue not seen in the web comic, along with bonus conceptual sketches and revised pages throughout, this gorgeous full-color graphic novel is perfect for the legions of fans of the web comic and is sure to win Noelle many new ones.

Nimona is an impulsive young shapeshifter with a knack for villainy. Lord Ballister Blackheart is a villain with a vendetta. As sidekick and supervillain, Nimona and Lord Blackheart are about to wreak some serious havoc. Their mission: prove to the kingdom that Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin and his buddies at the Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics aren't the heroes everyone thinks they are.

But as small acts of mischief escalate into a vicious battle, Lord Blackheart realizes that Nimona's powers are as murky and mysterious as her past. And her unpredictable wild side might be more dangerous than he is willing to admit.

‘Nimona’ is the debut graphic novel, written and illustrated by Noelle Stevenson … it was actually a free online web comic that Stevenson started in 2012, and doubled as her senior thesis at the Maryland Institute College of Art. But Stevenson has risen to fame in the comic-book world, for illustrating the insanely popular (and fantastic) series ‘Lumberjanes’, and her affiliation with Rainbow Rowell’s ‘Fangirl’ cover-art and subsequent fan-art.

I came to my Noelle Stevenson appreciation very late in the game, as I had to eagerly await the much buzzed-about Volume 1 of ‘Lumberjanes’ earlier this year. But as soon as I knew I had to make my way to ‘Lumberjanes’, I started following Stevenson on Twitter and was instantly in love with her sense of humour and subversive, feminist commentary – particularly in relation to the wonderful world of comics. Case in point, was this hilarious post about a drawing of Spiderman’s MJ with gravity-defying boobs that Stevenson fixed.

So when it was announced that a web comic which helped garner Noelle Stevenson her now considerable fan-base was going to be published as a graphic novel, you better believe I jumped for joy! And it’s not hard to see how ‘Nimona’ helped launch Stevenson’s career – as a funny “deadpan epic” that feels a little bit like ‘Monty Python and the Holy Grail’ with more heart, symbolism and gadgetry.

The book opens with “villain” Lord Ballister Blackheart meeting his new self-imposed sidekick, a young shapeshifter girl named Nimona. In the beginning the comic has a lot of fun with turning old tropes on their head – wherein the “villain” has ethics, the female sidekick is more blood-thirsty and conniving than her mastermind boss and though it’s set in a medieval-looking era, there’s a great blend of science and technology alongside jousting bouts and knights in shining armour.

But then Stevenson starts to really expand the world-building, and challenge readers with her subversive storytelling. We learn that Lord Ballister Blackheart has a more complicated back-story with shades of grey, while the local hero – Ambrosius Goldenloin (best name, ever!) – has more darkness to him than first meets the eye and a far more complex and tender relationship to Ballister.

Nimona, meanwhile, is more than the tough, smart-aleck sidekick … she leaves breadcrumbs to her true story, and it’s far more heartbreaking than anyone – especially Ballister – ever presumes.

‘Nimona’ is brilliant and unique – there’s really nothing else quite like it, and now that I’ve had the pleasure of reading it I can see what a gift Noelle Stevenson is to the wonderful world of comics … particularly for this female-friendly, smart graphic novel that has a lot of appeal for younger audiences.

The universe of ‘Nimona’ is particularly clever, as a contemporary-medieval setting where fantasy and science-fiction sit side-by-side and can each be seen as magical in certain circumstances. This medieval mash-up also means that Stevenson explores political tyranny playing out on the serfdom populace, which opens the story up for a lot of big concept ideas – particularly in the battle of good and evil.

You need only be following Stevenson for a few days on Twitter to know that she’s big on feminism, equality and diversity – and all three are in abundance in this book. In particular, Ballister and Goldenloin have hints of a romantic back-story, which is teased out beautifully (these two have so many fans – check out Tumblr to get an idea of how beloved they are!). Ballister and Goldenloin also feel like a nod to realised slash-fiction … like Stevenson took two story archetypes (the villain and the hero) and actually gave them the complicated attraction that fans often clamour for and explore in fanfiction (hello, Draco & Harry!).

‘Nimona’ is such a treat, and I encourage anyone who was once like me – totally in the dark about Stevenson’s sheer awesomeness – to make this book a ‘must-buy’! It’s funny, smart, subversive and challenges just about every adventure trope you can think of – a truly great book for monster girls and boys alike.



  1. I loved loved loved this book. I laughed so hard I cried, and at the end, cried so hard I laughed. I can't wait for more of Stevenson's work.

    enter my International giveaway for THE NUTCRACKER BLEEDS

    1. ME TOO! I will read anything and everything that she puts out now - automatic-buy author for me :)


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