Halloweek – Nimona

It’s officially the week of Halloween! So, what shall we dress up as this year?

A knight? A supervillain? A cyborg? How about a shark?

Oh, I know! Why not all of them.. at once!?

This is Nimona.

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Written and drawn by Noelle Stevenson, Nimona is the award winning story of Lord Ballister Blackheart, a professional villain who isn’t as evil as the system would make him out to be. As supervillains are wont to do, he spends much of his time being foiled by Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin, his foppish arch-nemesis and former best friend. The status quo gets shaken up, however, when Blackheart hires on Nimona, a shapeshifting spit-fire with a penchant for violence, as his sidekick. Nimona wants to help him take his villainy to the next level, but Blackheart has his own moral code, one he struggles to uphold even as the Institution that vilifies him conceals villainies of its own.

At it’s heart, Nimona is a story about perceptions and identity, how others perceive us and – most importantly – how we perceive ourselves. Ballister Blackheart, the most reviled man in all the kingdom, is quickly established as the most heroic. Regal, scrupulous, and highly intelligent, Blackheart is the epitome of an anti-villain. Even as a “villain”, he resorts to violence only as necessary, always taking precautions that his schemes don’t inadvertently harm someone. In fact, his moral dictum against taking lives strongly echoes the core tenant of the superhero Batman, another iconic character who acts outside ineffectual or even corrupt laws in his crusade against evil. Plus, he practices safe science. As the story progresses, we get to see Blackheart take on an almost fatherly role towards Nimona, whose childlike yet vicious tendencies he tries to temper with morality and consideration of consequences. Interestingly, it’s this ersatz father-daughter relationship that leads Blackheart into becoming the compassionate leader he so naturally is.

nimona3_2newNimona, the eponymous character, is reckless, pugnacious, delightfully zany, and emotionally guarded. So, in a word… she’s a teenager. Like a teenager, she’s beset with the belief that life’s just a game and there’s no way she can lose. Considering the scope of her powers, she might not be entirely wrong in that regard. She is arguably the most complex of the cast, partly because she’s also the most mysterious. She’s as much a protagonist as Blackheart is, but she also serves as a sort of living McGuffin – it’s her presence that allows Ballister to finally make progress in his crusade against the Institution. It’s also because of this that said Institution wants to remove her from the picture. Nimona’s shapeshifting powers and constantly changing mood make it hard to know just exactly who – or even what – she is, tying into the series’ theme of perception and identity always shifting.

Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin (no, seroiusly, that’s his name. He picked it out himself) is our main antagonist, though not our Big Bad, serving more the function of a tritagonist. He was once very close friends with Blackheart, but a falling out between the two has set them both upon their paths. Arrogant, vain, and more than a little naive, Goldenloin serves as the Institution’s figurehead. Despite his role as a lapdog, however, at his heart Goldenloin is a virtuous character who wants to do good, but doesn’t always know what that is and is hampered by his own selfish faults. He and Blackheart spend most of the series as frenemies, though we get occasional glimpses into their past friendship. As the plot advances their relationship as arch-nemeses escalates before coming to a head in the final act.

nim120The art is charming and all around pleasing, even if it’s somewhat sloppy in the beginning An ambitiously simple style and restrained use of color help keep it from looking crowded or visually overpowering and the end result is rather reminiscent of a French children’s book illustration à la The Little Prince or Madeline. Overall, I think the style does a fantastic job of taking a story with complex themes and attitudes and depicting them simply and elegantly.

Spoilers ahead

And what a story it is. Nimona begins as a fairly straightforward comedy action story that plays with the typical good guy/bad guy dynamic and other tropes. The setting itself plays with traditional norms – a kingdom protected by knights who use swords and arrows as readily as holograms and rocket launchers. Personally, I find the idea of knights fighting dragons with laser gauntlets is just too much fun to not enjoy. As surreal as the setting is, it somehow works, in part because we’re shown from the beginning that things aren’t always how they appear and assuming something to be doesn’t always make it so.

nim141Again, one of the main themes of Nimona is identity and how we can either embrace, or defy it. Blackheart is labeled a villain by society simply because it needed a villain and he doesn’t fit with its ideal of what a hero should look like… at least that’s partly the reason. Nimona, on the other hand, fully believes villains should be dastardly, violent, ambitious threats to be feared by all. This may be a result of her past trauma – people have treated her as a monster for so long she begins to believe it herself, so that’s exactly what she gives them. It’s Blackheart’s faith in her and her trust in him that allows both to grow beyond the labels that others place on them. This contrasts and compliments Goldenloin’s own character development, including his eventual understanding that a hero serves not the Law or his own vanity, but the people who need him.

End Spoilers

With marvelous, deep, complex, and evocative characters, a delightful mishmash of a setting (including knights with lasers and genetically altered dragons) and an ambitious, elegantly illustrated story, Nimona is a wonderful journey into a world of virtuous villains, haughty heroes, and pure, unadulterated, fun.

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Nimona was written and drawn by Noelle Stevenson. This comic, including the images used here, belongs to her. The story may have concluded already, but it’s already been picked up by HarperCollins to be published in print May 2015. Preorders can be made here.

Happy Halloweek!

Thistil Mistil Kickstarter

Read Thistil Mistil Kistil? Missed out on its first Kickstarter?

Then have no fear, Round Two is here!
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If you’ve been following Thistil Mistil Kistil, then you probably already know about the Kickstarter campaign that its creator, Sarah Schanze, has started.

If you didn’t know… well, now you do.

The kickstarter (link in the image) is for another batch of print copies of TMK Volume 1, which, if it pulls through, will include the first five (5) chapters and an additional story. As usual, there are various other rewards based on tiers.

If you enjoy Thistil Mistil Kistil (or think you might) and would like to see it in print, I encourage you to check it out. There are only a few weeks left.

Beefpaper

Hello, readers! Happy Halloween Month!

It’s been a while, so I thought I’d break the ice with a joke. OK, here goes.

Knock knock.

You (presumably): “Who’s there?”

And I answer “Death!”

I was going to make the punchline “The IRS” but that might’ve been too terrifying.

Anyways, this is Beefpaper.

3rd-July-2013

Like Happle Tea, Beefpaper‘s a gag-a-day style humor comic “very loosely based” on the life of it’s writer Shane Sheenan. VERY LOOSELY.”

As such, no characters, just a series of ceiling ghosts, an armada of pigs, and the hilarious antics of one very childish, somewhat overdramatic human being who still manages to be completely relatable… at least to me (I’ll elaborate later).

I’m not entirely sure how I first stumbled onto Beefpaper, but I think it must’ve been while I was scrolling through the now defunct webcomic site Just the First Frame. Beefpaper was linked there fairly regularly and I’m sure its sketch-over-photo style is what caught my eye. It isn’t the first webcomic to use photography as part of its medium, but it’s still uncommon enough that when you do find one, it sticks out.

Unlike most other photo webcomics, though, Beefpaper features sketches of Shane’s character and others superimposed over photo-realistic backgrounds. This lets the characters really stand out no matter where they are or what they’re doing. It also plays with the theme of Shane being a cartoonish man-child who does his thing while the “real” world goes on in the background, but maybe I’m just reading too much into what could easily have been a “just because” decision. It’s a fun comic – there’s no reason it can’t look fun, too.

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At the same time, though, there’s no denying how weird this comic is, but that’s one of its strengths, I feel. No matter your age group, you can’t help but chuckle at this comic’s utter weirdness.

Humor, of course, is subjective and this brand of humor in particular might not be for everyone, but I like it. Not only does it make me laugh, more often than not I totally get how Shane feels. Like, I can empathize completely. As someone in his early twenties, I know exactly what it feels like to feel like a kid in an adult world. I know what it’s like to make mature decisions and then decide “Nah!”, throwing all sensibility to the wind and forsaking all adultness in the name of Childish Fun because, honestly, you’re still a child, at least in your own eyes. What business do I have being a grown-up?

Not that the comic is bleak. Oh no, by no means. And that’s the thing. As a comic semi-inspired by the writer’s life, it honestly could have been.

Last year, Shane Sheenan was told he had an otherwise benign tumor in his pituitary gland. It’s steadily shrinking now, but that kind of thing can be pretty scary and is certainly no walk in the park. How did this influence his humor?

Not at bit.

And that, I think, is the beautiful thing.

Behind it’s borderline black comedy and surrealistic non sequiturs, there’s a bit of an underlying philosophy. Stuff happens – sometimes a lot of it – but no matter what, you just keep doing what you’re doing.

You’ll be OK.

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Beefpaper is written and created by Shane Sheenan. This comic, including all images used here, belongs to him.

 

 

Kickstarter for Valor

Do you love fairy tales? Does the idea of a courageous, intelligent heroine excite you?

Then this might be the Kickstarter for you.

Isabelle Melançon and Megan Lavey-Heaton, the creators of the fantastic webcomic Namesake, present Valor “a comic anthology that pays homage to the strength, resourcefulness, and cunning of female heroines in fairy tales… showcasing the talent of some of the top creators in the field of digital comics.”

Promising retold classics and brand new favorites – all by wonderful, highly talented comic creators – Valor has already met it’s pledge goal of $20,000, but it’s not too late to support the book (and maybe snag some sweet rewards, too).

Give their work a read-through and see if it’s something you might like to help happen.

Time for Some Summer Reading

The Reviews are going on a summer hiatus.

However, that doesn’t mean I won’t be busy. I’ll be tearing through my backlog of new and favorite webcomics looking for things to love.

Your mission dear reader, should you choose to accept it, is to speak up for your own favorites, be they up-and-coming talent or old veterans. Any genre, any style, I want to read them.

Just post a link or two to your favorite series down in the comments section and be sure to give a quick description about the comics and what you enjoy most about them.

Hopefully, by the end of the summer, everyone will have found a new reading list.

See you all then. :)