Book Club / Even My Curmudgeonly Heart

By Noelle Stevenson

Barbican Comic Forum
00000000 / Kraken
Brain Teeth

This happens about halfway the book and was basically the bit where I became convinced that Nimona was one of the best comics I’ve ever read…

“People of the Kingdom. My name is Ballister Blackheart, but I’m sure you know that already. You may think of me as your enemy, but I have only ever fought against the 26 Institution, not against you. Your true enemies are the ones who have beaten you down and kept you in compliance through fear…They’ve locked us into a system where they hold all the power. In return, they promised you safety, but they’ve broken that promise. In their quest for war, they’ve endangered the very people they swore to protect. They took away your power. It’s time to take it back.”

I mean holy shit right? It wasn’t really what I was expecting when I first started reading it. I was just expecting a few rifts on fantasy tropes like a medieval Buffy or something similar. Like if the middle ages was full of people in cosplay making quips all the time.

But then from the very first page I had to admit that it got it’s claws into me. I mean the dialogue was maybe just a tad too cute for my liking but even my curmudgeonly heart had to admit that it was pretty funny…
The Agency sent me.jpg

(Yeah ok “They want you to appeal to today’s youth” made me smile. And I really like Ballister’s “I KNEW IT”).

And then yeah when it goes from that to Ballister’s “backstory thing” which actually made me feel things I was like: oh wow. Maybe this is actually going to be pretty good. You should know I’m a sucker for stories that invert common sense understanding and well yeah: there’s just something about a story of a villain who’s been wrongly framed that just tickles something inside me (maybe this makes me an edgelord or contrarian or whatever – but I think its just the delight that you find in taking a cliché and turning it inside out).

And then the whole jaderoot plot kicked in and it just felt like the comic pushed itself into a whole other gear.

I mean: the governing body of a place outlawing a substance but then it turns out it’s stockpiling it for itself and it has all of these harmful effects? That is some serious shit for a scrappy little book to be dealing with. I thought it was just going to be jesters and sword fights and larks and here we are with this metaphor that’s dealing with stuff like lies and corruption and power and even (if you squint a little) WMDs. Fuck yeah. And then you have Blackheart’s speech at the halfway point and this funny little comic that seemed from the outset as if it would merely generate enough heat to light a match is all of a suddenly firing on all cylinders like a gas oven in a kitchen on fire.

(That’s a good thing).And then – well: it all kinda gets a bit meh? Yeah ok maybe that’s a little harsh but it’s lets you know how it made the feel the first time I read it. I mean: obviously a big part of the narrative that surrounds the book (at least back when I first picked it up) was: oh look – a book about a woman that’s written by a woman (hooray!) which yeah kinda makes the second half feel like quite a curveball when basically all the political stuff goes out the window and the cool, fun, irreverent basically becomes the monster? (“Don’t call her that” Blackheart says – but erm: sorry – she’s basically the monster). And yeah maybe that’s freedom of a sort – the freedom to not be perfect and a manic pixie dream girl etc and blah: but I just kinda felt it was a bit of a bummer to read you know? Nimona is basically the star and the most fun character of them all – and to have to deal with Ambrosius whacking her with a sword was just… I don’t know: not what I was hoping for?

(Question: how would you feel about this comic if you found out that a man had wrote it?)

But yeah whoops – maybe I’m asking too much from a comic that’s just supposed to be for kids right? And yeah I guess in a sense that it’s kinda good that the first half is so good that the second half can’t live to it or whatever – but erm: I’ve gotta ask. Even tho the evil head of The Institution got killed and stuff – I mean: whatever happened to Blackheart’s “it’s time to take the power back” rallying cry? And erm: what exactly became of all that jaderoot? I don’t know.

What do you think?


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