When Nimona joins forces with Lord Ballister Blackheart, she brings organization and a need for real vengeance to the ongoing battle between good and evil. Her shape-shifting abilities add to her usefulness as a sidekick so even though Blackheart usually works alone, he agrees to let her join him. Good and evil aren’t so clear cut in this graphic novel where the bad guys help the downtrodden people and the good guys are in power and unwilling to let it go. The dynamics between Blackheart and his arch nemesis Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin also complicate the situation, since the two are clearly attracted to one another. As their small heists gain the attention of the Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics, Nimona and Blackheart get into deadly battles where Nimona’s mysterious background may be what destroys them all.
Stevenson has created a graphic novel where nothing is as it seems. Readers will fall hard for this villainous duo, even when they think they are bad guys. As that morphs throughout the book and readers question what makes a villain or a hero, the book becomes more complicated and more interesting. Serious questions are asked about morals and right and wrong here, a depth that is great to find. Yet there is also humor to lighten up the situations, mostly provided by Nimona herself and her deadly yet playful approach to life and villainy.
I also applaud this graphic novel for having a romantic attachment between the two lead male characters. It is implied at first and then overtly shown. I love the dynamics of two men who both intended to be heroes but only one was willing to give up his principles to do so; the villain was not. Nimona herself is wonderfully curvy and filled with punk energy that shows in her hairstyles and their wild colors. I love a heroine (or is she a villain) who is far from a stereotype and who has incredible power.
Great art, a complex world, lots of feminism, and plenty of moral questions to grapple with create the teen graphic novel of the year. Appropriate for ages 13-17.
Reviewed from library copy.