Book Description from Goodreads:

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 an incredibly entertaining graphic novel with great characters—in short, I loved it! It begins with Nimona, a young girl, trying to convince notorious villain and scientist Lord Blackheart that the Agency sent her to be his sidekick in order to better appeal to the youthful demographic. When she’s forced to admit she can’t produce a letter from the organization, she turns into a shark and instead convinces him that a shapeshifter would be a great asset to the cause of villainy. Nimona is excited to aid him in crafting evil plans, but she’s rather disappointed to learn that Lord Blackheart does follow certain rules, such as not murdering people. Though she’s technically a sidekick, Nimona’s not one to obey orders, and she brings complete chaos into Lord Blackheart’s life—and by extension, into renowned hero Sir Goldenloin’s life, as she refuses to adhere to accepted protocol for encounters between heroes and villains.

From the start, Nimona is a fun story with a sense of humor, but it develops more depth as it delves into the characters and examines what makes one a hero or a villain. Though Lord Blackheart is considered evil, he’s more concerned with not harming people than the Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics that he opposes, and he’s immediately more sympathetic than Sir Goldenloin since the first glimpse of the famous hero is from their past. When they were younger, they were the Institution’s most promising heroes-in-training and romantically involved. The first time they had to compete against each other, Lord Blackheart won the contest—but immediately afterward, Sir Goldenloin wounded him badly enough that the Institution decided he was no longer hero material. Since then the two have been nemeses, but as the story progresses, it becomes clear that they have a complicated relationship and never completely stopped caring about each other.

Nimona adds a lot of life to the story with her enthusiasm for wickedness and mayhem, and her ability to shapeshift into any living creature, including a dragon, allows her to cause a lot of destruction. As the book progresses, it’s shown that Nimona has held back a lot about her capabilities, and the mystery of her true nature and power are at the heart of the story. I won’t go into detail about it to avoid spoilers, but I will add that her scenes with the more solemn, not-at-all bloodthirsty Lord Blackheart are often quite amusing and I rather liked the development of their friendship.

The art was rough toward the beginning, and although it did improve, it was still a simple style that I didn’t find particularly visually appealing, even if it did get the point across. I also would have liked for it to develop the world and lore a bit more, but the story and characters more than made up for any issues I had with it. Nimona is a delightful book that belongs on my keeper shelf since I suspect I’ll reread it some day, and I’d love to read more about Nimona and/or Lord Blackheart (and I was excited to see that a Nimona film is in the works!).

My Rating: 8.5/10

Where I got my reading copy: I received it for my birthday earlier this year.

Read the First Three Chapters of Nimona