Nimona is a stand-alone science-fantasy graphic novel by author/artist ND Stevenson. First serialized online between 2012 and 2014, Nimona was published in book form in 2015.
Lord Ballister Blackheart dreamed of becoming one of the kingdom’s heroes. After he lost an arm during a joust with Ambrosius Goldenloin, he also lost all hope of becoming a duly appointed hero. The Institution that rules the kingdom (de facto, but powerful nonetheless) used the injury as a pretext to eject him.
Blackheart believes his maiming to be no accident and has devoted himself to opposing the Institution. Thus far, his schemes have been marvelous in every respect … save that of actual success.
Enter Nimona, aspiring sidekick.
Nimona is caught when she penetrates Blackheart’s secret lair. She tries to pass herself off as an authorized sidekick, one dispatched by the Agency. Asked for her letter of introduction, she admits she lied, but insists she is qualified. A skeptical Blackheart at first rejects Nimona, whom he takes for a young girl. After she reveals that she is a shape-shifter (by transforming into a shark) he hires her (not without reservations).
Blackheart may be a villain but that does not mean he is sloppy or capricious. Just as heroism has rules, so too does villainy. Blackheart may be relentless in pursuit of revenge against the Institution and their hunky champion Goldenloin, but he is careful to avoid endangering bystanders. For Blackheart, victory or loss is beside the point. Nimona, on the other hand, thinks winning is everything. She will cheerfully slaughter any Institution guards who get in her way.
Chaos and homicide follow Nimona. Nevertheless Blackheart becomes (in his stuffy, rules-following-way) quite fond of his sidekick. Too bad that the Institution decides Nimona is too successful a sidekick and orders Goldenloin to dispose of her.
The Institution has no idea what Nimona really is.
It’s odd that someone is so good at shapeshifting is so bad at lying.
I’ve seen speculation that Blackheart’s ex-boyfriend/nemesis meant to adopt the name “Goldenlion” but that he was either a bad speller or had lousy handwriting.
One feels a bit sorry for the Institution guards whom Nimona murders wholesale. They probably died thinking they were the good guys. After all, Blackheart calls himself a villain1. Their only crime was showing up for work on the wrong day. Well, and working for an oppressive, duplicitous organization bent on dominating the Kingdom forever. The lot of a nameless mook is a hard one.
The art in Nimona isn’t at all photorealistic but is nonetheless effective at forwarding the narrative.
Readers might wonder why they should care what happens to Nimona, given her propensity to murder and mayhem. In fact, while the graphic novel never makes the case that gleeful mass murder is right, the work does invest a lot of effort showing why Nimona is the way she is.
Nimona starts off as a zany (if carnage strewn) comedy, but this is misleading. While it never loses its sense of humour, it does become rather dark towards the end, as Nimona’s nature is explicated and Blackheart is forced to choose between his acolyte and the greater good. Nevertheless, this isn’t Mark E. Rogers’ Zorachus2 and there are moments of hope. A diverting read for these increasingly unpleasant days.
1: His villainy appears to consist of lacking the moral flexibility needed to be an unquestioning dupe of the Institution.
2: “Zorachus? Who that?” you ask. Be grateful I don’t feel like answering that question. Although I can be bribed…