By Carter Glace, Staff Writer
So, how about those Oscars? It almost felt fitting that the 90th Academy Awards was the first to occurring in the age of #MeToo and #TimesUp. The industry is facing a major paradigm shift, a complete upending of the social hierarchy and world views that dominated the industry for almost a century. People are speaking out against the once untouchable. Films like “Black Panther,” “Get Out” and “Wonder Woman” are shattering the biased conventions about what audiences want to see. We are seeing the dawn of a new industry. How will the Academy celebrate this?
By giving only 6 out of the 24 awards of the night to women. And giving no Oscars to the movie written, directed, and led by women. And giving an Oscar to Kobe Bryant even though he was accused of rape in 2003. And giving an Oscar to Gary Oldman despite being accused of hitting his wife with a telephone. And letting Ryan Seacrest on the red carpet despite being accused of sexual harassment. (Let us just thank God Guillermo and Peele got their much deserved recognition).
Needless to say, I am a little frustrated with the Academy right now, but instead of just complaining, I’m going to put my money where my platform is. For this month, I am going to cover topics and comics made by female artists, starting with one of the most quirky, charming, and surprisingly endearing comics, “Nimona.”
Written and drawn by Noelle Stevenson (of LumberJane’s fame) as a web comic, the series was picked up by Harper Collins and made into a graphic novel. Set in a fantasy world where most of the magic has been pushed out by technology, the story is about the titular Nimona, a young shapeshifter with overwhelming ambition, an antagonistic and sarcastic outlook, and an often-jarring blood lust. She becomes the sidekick to Lord Blackheart, a former knight turned villain, and the duo take on the Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics, which has enforced an autocratic rule on the people of their kingdom.
The series embraces the broad fantasy/sci-fi tropes and archetypes. You have the villain with noble intentions, the spunky heroine, the authoritative regime, the shady government head, and the handsome hero who realizes he’s on the wrong side. By taking advantage of simple set up and arcs, “Nimona” succeeds in creating fun character moments, slowly building complexity and depth, having genuine feeling relationships and creating ideological rifts that are compelling but never convoluted or one-sided. Nimona is instantly charming and likeable, even as she’s creating mayhem and violently murdering people and Blackheart turns out to be a brilliant foil, starting as melodramatic but principled kill-joy into a sort of father figure. Even Sir Goldenloin, the pomp-y ‘hero’ of the kingdom, gets genuine pathos and an ending that is both surprising and earned.
I think the series’ strongest suit is its very clear webcomic roots, both in its art style and tone. The pages have a very simple style that fits right in with it’s digital peers, where sketchy pencil lines and striking color choices give each page a poppy, gritty feels.
And perhaps the most loveable quality of the series is how it begins as a sort of irreverent and jokey—the first chapter being bookended by one of the best visual gags I’ve ever seen—and slowly develops into something meaningful, earnest and impactful. The comparison I keep turning back to is “The Adventure Zone,” which started as a gag-fest and slowly evolved into something with a sprawling mythos and emotional resonance.
In the sheer scope of the internet, it can be near impossible for artists to get their head above water, but with Noelle, it is no wonder she pulled it off. Her ability to create loveable, hilarious worlds through the simplest inspirations never ceases to fail, and “Nimona” stands as yet another roaring success.