NIMONA began as a webcomic by Noelle Stevenson, and has now been published as a graphic novel. It takes place in a aesthetically medieval society in which science and technology have antiquated magic, and The Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics is pulling the strings in all heroic and villainous affairs. The story begins with Nimona showing up in the lab of Ballister Blackheart, the designated town villain, and convincing him to adopt her as his shapeshifting sidekick.
Nimona is an enigma: a girl with magical shapeshifting powers and a knack for villainy. She’s bloodthirsty and objectively a truer villain than Ballister Blackheart himself, yet endearing and genuine as a character. Ballister is truly just a hero fallen from the good graces of the Insitution who sees villainy as the only alternative to heroism.
In chapter 2, Ballister Blackheart reflects on his previous affiliation with the Institution’s hero academy and his former best friend, and current nemesis, Ambrosius Goldenloin. They were both top of their class, so the Institution organized a joust between them which would decide the town’s new hero. Ambrosius lost to Ballister, but the Institution, having pre-selected Goldenloin for the heroic role, weaponized his lance, and Ambrosius destroyed Ballister’s left arm out of spite. The hero academy saw no use for Ballister anymore. He was driven to villainy by a discriminatory system, but he still has a strong moral compass. He makes his own rules about being a villain, while Nimona is unabashedly bloodthirsty and violent. She acts as his foil.
This relates to marxism because the structures in power in Nimona’s world actively seek to undermine the justice system by choosing the vengeful and easily manipulated Ambrosius as the town’s hero and pushing Blackheart towards villainy. The institution uses the relationship between Ambrosius and Ballister to keep both the hero and the villain in their pockets; Their complex rivalry keeps them from doing too much damage or going too far. To Goldenloin and Ballister, heroism and villainy is a sort of game in which they play specific roles and no one ever wins.
Meanwhile, Nimona obeys no rules, and will accomplish her goals enthusiastically and by whatever means necessary. Nimona’s intervention is what pushes Ballister to look deeper into the Institution’s manipulation of the system for it’s own gain. She’s the catalyst that sparks a rebellion, changing their society as they know it.
As the story progresses, it becomes clear that the Institution is more insidious than the townspeople believe. Nimona infiltrates the institution using her shapeshifting powers and steals encrypted records from them, which Ballister then deciphers. He finds that the Institution has been doing experiments involving large quantities of Jaderoot, a deadly poison which could pose a great risk to the town. His true colors show as he decides to take action to unveil the Institution’s plans in order to protect the townspeople from the potential threat of Jaderoot poisoning. He and Nimona then begin working to expose and uproot the corruption of the Institution. In this story, the villains act as the true heroes as they work to secure the safety of the townspeople.