Tuesday, January 5, 2016

YA Graphic Novel Review: Nimona

I have too many emotions. How am I supposed to write this???

Nimona by Noelle Stevenson

Published: May 12th, 2015 by Harper Collins, but it was originally available as a webcomic.
Genre: YA Graphic Novel
Binding: Hardcover
Page Count: 266 including thank yous and some bonus content
Part of a series? I WISH.
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound / You also can read the first three chapters here, although keep in mind that the illustrations have been much polished for the published version.

Summary (copied from goodreads and mushed around to match the inside of the dust jacket): 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.

Explosions will be involved. Science and sharks will be, too.

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.

Nemeses! Dragons! Science! Symbolism! All these and more await!

Review: Okay, but I did all that stuff up there and I still don't know what to say. I just liked this so much and I'm still having way too many emotions. Seriously, I'm just sitting here not typing anything kind of staring at the book and my notes and getting nowhere.

This is beautiful and different and funny and heartbreaking and I don't know how to word anymore. I want about six sequels, but also it kind of has a perfect ending so I don't want that to be messed around with. Maybe I just want like six more books from Noelle Stevenson immediately. Good thing I have Lumberjanes volume 2 waiting for me!

Plot Talk: This is like a kind of epic plot. This is like science-fiction meets fantasy. You have knights and super-computers, agencies for sidekicks and kingdoms, zombie movies and banks where you can deposit a chest full of gold and no one blinks funny. There is no definitive time period, especially since it's filled with clashing things like that, but takes elements of both those things, with settings and clothing and everything from all sorts of time periods including modern ones.

Like the summary says, Blackheart and Nimona start out by trying to conquer the kingdom, and uncover something much darker. The plot is easy to follow, but complex. It deals with the hidden secrets of the kingdom and the institute, forgiveness, and both Nimona and Blackheart dealing with their past. The ending is somewhat open-ended, but good. There's closure, but you're left with some questions. I always want happy endings because I'm a sap, but this is a satisfying ending, and I think it works very, very well, especially with the epilogue which I read is exclusive to the book.

Characters: Oh man, this is hard. Nimona, man. She's surprisingly blood-thirsty, something I don't think you see that often in female characters, complex, has a body-type you don't always see in comics in that she's a bit chubbier (awesome), secretive, not always likable - and I loved her. She's one of my favourite types of characters, and I really just loved everything about her, honestly.

Our other main character is Blackheart, who is technically the villain, but is more like the hero since we know he's doing the right thing after a certain point, and the "good guys" are actually not very good at all. He has very strong morals, talks about how much he takes responsibility for death done at his hands, even when Nimona essentially shrugs it off. He's also visibly disabled with a prosthetic arm, and possibly some shade of MOGAI*. That last bit could be me wearing shipper goggles, but there's a whole lot of subtext, okay?

Nimona and Blackheart's relationship is something really lovely in that there is never any hint of romance between them. The age difference is... let's just say it's VERY complicated, but their relationship is presented more as an uncle and a niece, or even a father and daughter. It's very "found family", has very tender moments, and it's very refreshing to see such a complete lack of romance, or sex, or anything beyond a deep, caring friendship.

Other characters are wonderful as well, and I really enjoyed how the book broke down the hero/villain archetypes, and what actually makes someone a hero or villain. The Institution is a really interesting concept. The side characters are interesting, and every character had a really cool design where everyone was pretty unique-looking.

PG-13 stuff: This is definitely a more mature book. With the format, there is violence and blood, and everything is somewhat more... if you'll excuse the pun... graphic. I think the bruising especially is amazingly realistic, but injuries and death happen in this. People get injuries, bruises, scars. Beyond that, the themes are pretty deep. There's forgiveness, corruption, manipulation by authority. They're all done very, very well, but some younger or more sensitive readers may not be ready for this.

Mild language, if that's a concern.

Cons, complaints, bad stuff, etc.: I actually wish the subtext had been laid out as text a little bit more because I honestly don't know if it's me or if it's what the book meant to do. I'd love to be able to recommend this as a book with a disabled MOGAI main character - how awesome would that be? - but I'm not comfortable doing that because it's not explicit.

I wouldn't have minded a few more women, and while the extras are often POC, the main cast lacks them beyond one character (who is awesome). Also, more fat people always, beyond just "chubby" or smaller fat people would be nice.

Cover comments: I think it's a beautiful cover. I adore that picture of Nimona because her body isn't "perfect", but she's obviously about to kick some butt and really happy about it, and the whole thing is engaging and well-designed.

Since I don't have an art section, I'll put it here: The illustrations are freaking awesome. They have a ton of personality, they're very pretty, and I really enjoy the style of them. They carry the emotion of the story when there are no words, and I have absolutely no complaints.

Conclusion: I am so glad I read this. I keep trying to say how good it is, and I've got nothing. The characters are great, the story is great, the relationships in the story are great, the art is great. This is just really great. I'm kind of destroyed, and I blame everyone who recommended this. I'm giving this one four and... between a quarter and a half rose. Probably more like a quarter because I should knock off points for the things I mentioned in the cons segment, but I'm rounding for emotional devastation.



Other notes:

- *MOGAI

First review of 2016! How'd I do?

Peace and cookies,
Laina

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