Noelle Stevenson’s Nimona is a joy to read. I laughed my way through this unusual adventure fantasy, which had enough emotional depth and action scenes to keep it from being too arch to take seriously. Nimona is a young girl with unusual abilities who shows up one day and badgers supervillain Sir Ballister Blackheart into letting her be his sidekick. The rest of the book is mostly Blackheart trying to restrain his bloodthirsty assistant as they take down the sinister, fascist Institution (who claim to be good guys).
Sir Ballister used to be a good guy, until an accident with his friend Sir Goldenlion left him without an arm. Because a man with a robotic arm (and too much intelligence, let’s be honest) can’t be a hero for the Institution, he became a villain. Nimona, who has her own reasons for revenge against the Institution, signs up because she thinks she’ll finally be able to kills some people. Sir Ballister is not that kind of villain. Instead of killing people, he does everything he can to defeat the Institution without actually hurting anyone. His goodness annoys Nimona no end and her violence alarms him. In spite of their differences, they become close friends.
Nimona has a naive art style that reminds me a bit of Kate Beaton’s work. The characters are snakey and have odd proportions, but it all worked for me. I’m not a stickler for realistic art, especially when the style emotes so much and can convey such a strong sense of motion in the panels. The images of Nimona blowing her stack and Sir Ballister chasing after her are just hilarious.
The book follows Nimona and Sir Ballister as they face down the Institution, which is growing more evil by the day. Along the way, Nimona touches on questions of right and wrong, how far the ends justify or fail to justify the means, and what makes a monster. Because this book contains so much and tells its story in such an entertaining way, this is going to be a new go-to recommendation for me for anyone who says they like fantasy stories.