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Webcomic / NIMONA

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Combining shapeshifters and fancy knights.
NIMONA is a webcomic (and later a Comic Book) by ND Stevenson, about a shapeshifter girl, Nimona, who joins a supervillain knight, Lord Ballister Blackheart, as his sidekick. Cue Ballister's surprisingly orderly villainy; he seems to just have more of a rivalry with the "hero" of the series and his antagonist: Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin, who's actually much more of a jerk than Ballister.

Only the first three chapters of the comic are currently available on the website due to the comic being licensed to become a graphic novel, which was published in May 2015.

An animated film adaptation by Blue Sky Studios was announced for release in 2022, but production was initially shuttered after the announcement that Disney was dissolving the studio in 2021, effectively cancelling the project despite it being far into production. However, it was eventually saved the following year when it was picked up by Annapurna Pictures, who finished the film and released it on Netflix in June 2023. Former Blue Sky staff members Nick Bruno and Troy Quane (Spies in Disguise) took over the director roles and the animation was handled by DNEG (Ron's Gone Wrong). It features the voices of Chloë Grace Moretz as Nimona, Riz Ahmed as Blackheart (renamed Boldheart), and Eugene Lee Yang as Goldenloin.

NIMONA provides examples of:

  • 24-Hour Armor: Everyone really.
    • Nimona, assuming it's really armor and she doesn't just shapeshift it into being.
    • Goldenloin is never seen not wearing his armor, making him a likely contender as well.
    • The Director seems to be wearing light chainmail too.
  • Action Girl: Nimona, even when not in a girl's form. Also, Gloreth.
  • Alliterative Name: Ballister Blackheart.
  • Alternate Universe: "No matter what happens, remember that there is always an alternate universe out there somewhere where this is a story about some hip gay dads who adopt a baby and everything turns out okay."
  • Anachronism Stew: The series' main character is a knight with a robotic arm. In several other instances, medieval and technological themes combine, so smoothly that readers have confessed to not even registering that anything was off for several chapters.
  • Anchovies Are Abhorrent: Nimona asks to order a pizza as there's nothing edible in Ballister's fridge. He says delivery is expensive and offers her anchovies. She responds with a flat 'no'.
  • Annoying Arrows: Discussed and subverted. When an arrow hits Nimona in the leg, Ballister treats it as a serious injury. Nimona thinks he's over-reacting, and wants to get back to fighting right away.
    Nimona: Will you chill out? No-one ever got killed with one little arrow!
    Ballister: Actually, they have. That is kind of the purpose of arrows.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: When Ballister stands over a fallen Goldenloin during a fight:
    Ballister: What if I cut off your arm right now? Then you'd see how fast the Institution would cast you aside. Just like they did me.
    Goldenloin: You wouldn't.
    Ballister: No, I wouldn't. And I'm the villain. What do you suppose that says about you?
  • Art Evolution: Easily seen from the first few pages, and well into the last few chapters. Color composition and more all blossom and refine as the story goes on, which help the characters really shine.
  • Artificial Limbs: Ballister's right arm, which the audio adaptation makes clear he made himself. Goldenloin shot it off after losing a joust. Though later on, it's revealed that The Institution forced Goldenloin to shoot Ballister.
  • Ascended Fangirl: Nimona joins Ballister because she is a fan of his work, not quite a Loony Fan given her competance and the long term plans she reveals.
  • Badass Cape: Considering they're both knights, Goldenloin and Ballister both have one.
  • Bank Robbery: Among Ballister and Nimona's schemes. It's probably one of the evilest things Ballister has really done, and even then he leaves most of the gold out for commoners to grab.
  • Bar Brawl: A short brutal one starting page 9 of chapter 7.
  • Beard of Evil: Ballister sports a goatee, while Goldenloin is clean-shaven. Although later in, Ballister don't trim it anymore and it gets closer and closer to a full beard.
  • Beast of the Apocalypse: Shows up in the finale; Nimona as a monster burns every Institution facility and major government buildings to ash, freeing the kingdom from their yoke, but well on her way to destroying the entire city if not the kingdom.
  • Berserk Button: Nimona reacts very badly to the suggestion that she could be examined to find how her power works, even For Science! She's nobody's Guinea pig.
  • Big Bad: Despite the reputation Ballister has as the kingdom's top villain, the story's true villain is The Director.
  • Big "NO!": Ballister, when Nimona's head is cut off.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Ballister and Goldenloin are reconciled and redeemed, the Institution is dismantled, and Blitzmeyer gets a fancy new lab with Ballister. However, Nimona's vengeful rampage killed many innocent people, she runs off after reassuring Ballister that she's alive, and there's only a slight possibility that she and Ballister will ever reunite.
  • Black Knight: Ballister's portrayed as one. Kinda.
  • Blade Below the Shoulder: One of Goldenloin's soldiers at the ambush is Dual Wielding such blade and quite skilled with them, beheading Nimona's monster form.
  • Blessed with Suck: It's revealed that Nimona actually hates her powers and what she is. While shapeshifting is cool and she can heal fast while surviving lethal attacks — such as losing her head — it comes with a lifetime of being seen as a monster and experimented on by the Institute. Even though Nimona survives when Ballister is forced to shoot her Superpowered Evil Side, she disappears after revealing to him that she's alive, showing that either she doesn't forgive herself for hurting her Only Friend or that she doesn't want him to worry about her.
  • Blood Knight: Nimona loves killing. Ballister, being the Noble Demon he is, has to tone this down at times. Later deconstructed, as her violent tendencies stem from a combination of killing before she understood the consequences of her actions, being put in a situation where killing was the only way out, and then defining herself as a killer due to her past.
  • Boyish Short Hair: Nimona has sidetails and bangs, while the rest of her head is shaved. Takes a darker tone as it appears to be mimicking a Traumatic Haircut from her past.
  • Broken Bird: Noted by Ballister at the end of the story. He says that Nimona was not a monster; she was a damaged person who didn't know how to handle trauma. What she went through— being experimented on for decades, called a monster and a pet— would break anyone. Ballister can confirm that from his experiences with the Institute. A disguised Nimona is touched by this and leaves a secret message to show she's alive.
  • Career-Ending Injury:
    • Blackheart's arm being blown off at the joust. Although there turns out to be a deeper layer to this, as the Institution deliberately set this up for Blackheart. They made sure he would be injured, then used his injury as an excuse to get rid of him.
    • In some Laser-Guided Karma, Goldenloin may have lost use of his legs in the ending. Forgiving him for shooting his arm off, Ballister helps him with recovery and won't leave his bedside.
  • Cerebus Syndrome: The story starts out as a fairly light, humorous read, but as more is revealed about the characters, it gradually becomes more dramatic. Humor is still present, but it's heavily downplayed as the story reaches its climax.
  • Chest Blaster: One of Goldenloin's soldiers at the ambush has such a weapon integrated into his Power Armor.
  • Christmas Episode:
  • Code Name: Played for Laughs, during the bank robbing scene.
    Nimona: [over radio] Red Fox to Tin Man. Come in, Tin Man, do you copy!
    Ballister: I can hear you, Nimona.
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: Goldenloin wears majestic gold and white while Blackheart dons black and red.
  • Creator Cameo: ND is visible in the background of one page.
  • Cute and Psycho: Nimona is a cute, plucky, adorable young girl who is disturbingly eager to kill and maim people.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Nimona's real backstory is very harsh and troubled, and leaves you perfectly understanding why she has no love for the self-appointed good guys.
  • Death by Origin Story: Nimona's parents, again, along with her entire hometown.
  • Deceased Parents Are the Best: Nimona's parents. However, subverted in her true backstory, where it's implied that she might have killed them herself after they gave her to the Institute.
  • Deconstruction: Nimona takes a look at stories that set villains as the protagonists and cast traditional heroes as antagonists. While most fanfics or original stories note that the villains are right and go that route, Ballister is not actually a villain. Instead, he was painted as one and merely decides to play the part. In addition, Ballister says he would cross the line if he ever hurt innocents and gets captured by the Institution when delivering a cure for a plague he caused. Nimona shows what would happen if a superpowered fangirl of a villain would do with immense powers and no moral code, leading to more destruction than before.
  • Decoy Backstory: The first time Ballister asks Nimona about the origin of her powers, she claims she was once an ordinary girl who was gifted magical transforming powers by a witch after she helped the witch. It's pretty obvious that at least some parts of it are false, as it makes no real sense that the witch would have needed her help or could have bestowed shapeshifting abilities as powerful as Nimona's. Ballister even points out some of the holes in the story. Much later it's confirmed that pretty much the entire story was a lie. Nimona's true origin is never fully revealed. What little we know was that she was captured and experimented on after killing dozens of raiders with her powers, and it's theorized she may be some sort of ancient shapeshifting parasite that either killed and replaced or merged with a young girl.
  • Designated Villain: Ballister is an In-Universe example. He's held up as a villain and the top threat to the Kingdom, but his schemes never involve killing anyone and doing the absolute least harm possible, and shows far more morals and compassion than the Institution does, especially for common citizens. The people gradually come to realize this over the course of the comic, and by the climax the people accept him and his leadership during a crisis without question, despite all the propaganda that has been defaming him over the course of the years.
  • Destination Defenestration: As part of the Bar Brawl above.
  • Doomed Hometown: Nimona's town was destroyed by raiders from the west. It's part of her backstory on how she became a shapeshifter. This is later revealed as a lie, and while her hometown was destroyed and there were raiders, the actual sequence of events is significantly darker.
  • Doppelgänger: Nimona can create a pretty close approximation of a person, the audiobook confirms that she can perfectly mimic a voice too.
  • Dramatic Unmask: The Director throwing away her hood reveals Pointy Ears and a bald head, showing she's probably not human. Nimona later guesses that she's a goblin, although The Director refuses to confirm or deny it.
  • Dungeon Punk: The setting has a lot of the aesthetics of Medieval European Fantasy, with witches and shapeshifters and magical creatures, but it also has screens, home appliances, pizza, Ray Guns and other firearms. It even establishes a distinction between magic and science, with magic having either migrated away from human civilization or is slowly dying out as an art.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness:
    • Ballister has a thing for genetically modified dragons but since he has Nimona with him he doesn't bring up that project again. Even when some dragons would be great at slowing down a certain Beast of the Apocalypse.
    • The very first strip has mention of Ballister working for an Agency of supervillains. This Agency is never mentioned again.
  • Emerald Power:
    • Jaderoot is an incredibly insidious magical substance used in Dark Magic and is a deadly bubbling green.
    • Dr. Meredith Blitzmeyer's Anomalous Energy Enhancer, which harvests the same infinite omnipotent energy source used by the sorcerers of the mountains... and does nothing at the moment except glow green.
  • The Extremist Was Right: Inverted. The true extremist of the story is The Director and the Institution, which she controls. They're the ones meddling with tools of dark sorcery which are extremely dangerous and have the potential to poison the entire country. Ballister is actually much more moderate, less callous with the lives of others, and he attempts to talk Nimona down from her rampage instead of trying to do nothing but kill her.
  • The Face: Goldenloin is this for the Institution. He's the handsome Knight in Shining Armor that the everyday people can admire as a hero and make the Institution look good, all while they carry on with much darker schemes under the surface.
  • Fiery Redhead: Nimona herself. Though it might be dye.
  • First Law of Tragicomedies: The series started off with a silly sense of humor paired with occasional pathos, then gradually got more serious and character-driven.
  • Foe Romance Subtext: Blackheart and Goldenloin, in spades. Confirmed to be canon by the author at the end of the comics and in some of his comments.
  • Freudian Excuse: Nimona is willing to hurt and kill people because her parents gave her up to the Institution after she saved the village from raiders and burned the invaders to the ground. This single moment defined her life and identity. Meanwhile, at the Institution she was treated as a monster and a lab pet, perhaps a weapon to replicate. Of course, when they recapture her, the attempt to study her blood goes wrong when she lashes out completely and starts wiping everyone out. Ballister discusses this; he says that anyone who went through something like that would be broken and traumatized.
  • Friendship Denial: When Goldenloin talks to the Director about Blackheart, Goldenloin tries to protest that Blackheart isn't his friend and their past relationship won't prevent Goldenloin from stopping Blackheart.
  • Friendship Moment: Every time Goldenloin drags Blackheart out of danger. Also, the last panels of the epilogue.
  • From a Single Cell: It's pretty heavily implied that this is the root of both Nimona's Shapeshifting powers and Healing Factor. Every time Nimona transforms, all of her cells are destroyed and reformed. It's how she can resurrect and split into two bodies.
  • Fruit Cart: While locked in cat form, Nimona runs into one.
  • Foreshadowing: There are a few hints that Nimona's backstory is fake.
    • Blackheart keeps pointing out Plot Holes while she's telling it.
    • Nimona claims that part of her tragedy was that she couldn't control her shapeshifting when she first got it, and needed time to learn how to master it. She contradicts this after undergoing Shapeshifter Mode Lock and freaking out because she's apparently never lost control like that before.
  • Funny Background Event: In the background of one page, the extras include Hawkeye and Black Widow; Gandalf and Bilbo; Obi-Wan, Luke Skywalker, and Han Solo; Katniss; Pacha; Heisenberg; ND themselves; and someone in a shock blanket.
  • Gender Bender: During the bank-robbing scene, Nimona shifts into a burly-looking man carrying a chest, and later takes the form of a young boy named Gregor during the Science Expo with Ballister.
  • Government Conspiracy: One of the main plot points is that the Institution is actually this. The Institution is the true power player in the Kingdom, and is willing to do whatever it takes to hold onto or grow its power, including risking the lives of citizens or arranging accidents for members and potential members who ask too many questions.
  • Grievous Bottley Harm: Goldenloin to Ballister, as part of the Bar Brawl above.
  • Healing Factor: Nimona's arrow wound heals rather quickly. It's a shapeshifter thing. Turns out she could have healed much more quickly, but was misleading Ballister as to the extent of her powers.
  • Hero with Bad Publicity: Ballister, again. At one point we see that the Academy from which he was expelled (and consequently turned "villain" because of this) is stocking big amounts of a highly poisonous plant, making him worried about possible poisoning of the kingdom's food.
  • He Who Fights Monsters: Ballister fears crossing this line. He knows the Institute is evil and corrupt, but doesn't want to stoop to their level. Ballister suffers a Heroic BSoD on learning that his "harmless" plague actually killed innocent people, saying he's no better than the Director.
  • Holographic Terminal: This trope is surprisingly commonplace considering the medieval motif that dominates the story. Given that they also have laser and super-science despite said medieval motif, perhaps it's not so surprising.
  • In the Hood: Along with a fake beard, Ballister wears a hooded cloak as a disguise at the Science Expo and during incognito meetings with Goldenloin.
  • Ironic Fear: Nimona is quite scared of horror movies, which Ballister points out makes no sense considering her powers make her far scarier than any fictional monster. She blames the zombies.
  • Jumping Off the Slippery Slope: Nimona herself does this in later chapters as her true motives and history come out and the Institution starts targeting her, feeling that her powers is the prime reason why Ballister is getting the best of them. The Director threatens to execute Ballister and tortures him in front of Nimona. Nimona gives her a chilling Death Glare and allows the Institute to take a sample of her blood. When that happens, her child-form dies and a monstrous clone forms, who starts laying damage.
  • Kill and Replace: At one point, Ballister and Dr. Blitzmeyer talk about a legend of a knight who supposedly fought and killed a shapeshifter like Nimona. Blitzmeyer mentions an alternate theory, that the knight wasn't victorious at all, but that the shapeshifter killed her and then took her shape in order to throw off suspicion and prevent further attacks.
  • Kill It with Fire: The Director gets burned to death by Nimona, who is using a dragon's form.
  • Knight Templar: The Director, who believes she is doing everything she does to protect the kingdom.
  • Leave Him to Me!: Blackheart says this to Nimona, referring to Goldenloin during planning for the Bank robbery.
  • Lightning Lash: One of Goldenloin's soldiers at the ambush uses a version of these to restrain and incapacitate Nimona it doesn't work well when she can just shapeshift a defense.
  • Literal Split Personality: The original Child!Nimona is left after her shapeshifting Beast!Nimona goes off to wreck revenge on the institution. The child is a scared trusting child while the beast goes on a literal rampage.
  • Living MacGuffin: The Director and Goldenloin at least in beginning, think Nimona is this.
  • Long-Haired Pretty Boy: Goldenloin is very close to golden locks which fits exquisitely, as the Christmas flashback shows he only grew them out in his adult years.
  • MacGuffin Super-Person: The Director considers Nimona to be this, evidence points toward the Institute having hunted Nimona for years if not decades to understand and possibly weaponize her powers.
  • MacGuffin Title: If you subscribe to the 'Nimona is a MacGuffin' view above, like the Director does.
  • Major Injury Underreaction: While in her dragon form, Nimona takes an arrow to the leg during the Bank Robbery scene, and doesn't notice (even after she shifts back to human) until Ballister points it out to her. Even then, her reaction is a simple "Oh." Played with: when the arrow is extracted, she reacts with considerably more pain — but it turns out she was faking in order to mislead Ballister as to the strength of her powers.
  • Meaningful Name: Goldenloin, along with his golden armor, wears a golden codpiece.
  • Minimalist Cast: The cast page shows all the characters with both a name and a recurring part. That list is exactly five people long.
  • Mirror Character: In the end, Nimona and Ballister. Both were abused by organizations that study magic scientifically and emotionally manipulate others to their own ends. Both were taken in by said organizations as children and told that these organizations were the good guys for doing so. Both define themselves by how these organizations defined them. The difference is that while growing up Ballister thought he was being groomed as a hero and continued to behave heroically, while Nimona was told she was "sick" and "dangerous" and as such decided Then Let Me Be Evil.
  • Morality Pet: At first, Nimona seems to be an inversion of this for Ballister, since she's constantly nagging him about his self-imposed ethics and code of honor; as the story advances, however, it starts looking more and more like Ballister has been Nimona's Morality Pet all along.
  • Morphic Resonance: Nimona is a redhead, and many of her alternate forms have red or pink tones. Unlike many examples of this trope, she actually plays with it once by using a rat painted pink as a diversion. Subverted when she turns into a human however, as she is perfectly able to change herself into a form with different hair colors. She even changes both the color and style of her haircut in her default form.
  • Mundane Utility: For the first Christmas Episode, Nimona offers Ballister a red scarf. She then tells him she turned into a sheep and knitted it with her own wool. (She might be pulling his leg, though.)
    Nimona: Knitting with hooves is hard but I got the hang of it.
  • New First Comics: In the print edition the first few comics are redrawn to be closer to the style of the overall book. The originals can still be found online and are included on the creators' tumblr and some print editions.
  • Noble Demon: Ballister does what he does just to "prove a point" instead of being actually evil.
  • No Name Given: The Director of the Institution is only known by her title. Her name is never spoken in the comic.
  • Non-Lethal Deadly Weapon: Ballister goes to great lengths to make his poison non-lethal, but eventually two people who were sick because of it die anyway. As anyone who works in medicine could tell you, there is no illness too harmless to be entirely non-lethal. There's always someone who is immunocompromised enough, or frail enough, or ill enough from something else that some minor illness which would normally not be a big deal can wind up being the last straw that does them in. Although it's possible that this is a subversion. Between the Institution guards at the hospital who had a trap prepared for Ballister, and the second trap prepared for Nimona when she tried to free him, it's possible that the deaths were either the doing of the Institution, or even that nobody died at all and the "deaths" were just a rumor spread by the Institution as part of a Batman Gambit to trap Ballister.
  • Noodle Incident: Ballister once tried to clone the King's daughter. Exactly why he tried to do this is never explained.
  • Nostalgia Filter: Towards the end of the comic, Ballister accuses Goldenloin of having this.
    Goldenloin: I just meant... there was a time. Before. Things were simpler. We were together. It was... good.
    Ballister: It was never that good. You always remember things as being better than they were.
  • The Only One Allowed to Defeat You: Briefly mentioned as the reason Ballister won't let Nimona kill Goldenloin. Later it turns out there are other factors at play.
  • Only One Name: If Nimona received a last name from her parents, she certainly hasn't told anyone. This is a tad unlikely, since the entire story was a lie.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • When Ballister informs Nimona (over radio) that Goldenloin has ambushed him.
    • When the sample of Nimona's blood, extracted from inside the force field she's being detained in to the main lab, begins transforming into her monstrous form.
  • "Open!" Says Me: Rather than listen to Ballister's Techno Babble, Nimona's strategy of getting through high-security doors is just to ram through them as a rhinoceros. Ballister's less than amused.
  • Perky Female Minion: This seems to be the essence of Nimona's personality. At first, anyway.
  • Permashave: Goldenloin, unlike Ballister, keeps himself smooth as a baby's bottom. Even when recovering from horrible injuries.
  • Perpetual Frowner: Ballister's facial expression is usually serious. The only time it isn't is usually when he's shocked.
  • Pet the Dog: The Director has only one decent moment. In the climax, Nimona's Superpowered Evil Side is on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge and hunting down the Director in revenge for torturing Ballister and trying to study her. One of the guards helps the Director to her feet and says they need to evacuate per her orders. The Director orders him to leave her because the beast is hunting her and grabs a jaderoot cannon.
  • Plasma Cannon: Ballister's weapon of choice during the bank robbery.
  • Plucky Girl: Nimona. That is, if by "plucky" you mean "knife-happy punk-ass Blood Knight".
  • Powered Armor: Goldenloin is outfitted with an enhanced (and still golden) suit with which to subdue Ballister and Nimona, complete with built-in Static Stun Gun gauntlets.
  • Power Glows: Any technology created by Dr. Blitzmeyer seems to have this, for example the Device that is able to interrupt Nimona's shpeshifting.
  • Pretty Boy: Goldenloin, long golden locks complimentary clothing options that accentuates his features that the comparatively minimalistic art style makes a point of showing off.
  • Properly Paranoid: When we're first introduced to Ballister and hear his complaints about his rival Goldenloin and the Institution, it's easy to imagine that Ballister's caught in a case of your standard villain paranoia, and that he and Goldenloin having a bit of a Doctor Doom-Reed Richards situation going on, where Ballister is blowing up an incident with Goldenloin and assuming malicious intent where there was none, and blaming the Institution for things it hasn't done. He's right about both Goldenloin intentionally injuring him and about the Institution, although it turns out he's actually significantly underestimating the Institution's capacity for nastiness, and cruel or careless actions.
  • Psycho Sidekick: Nimona may be this for Ballister; she's considerably more bloodthirsty and willing to kill than orderly Ballister.
  • Puppet King: It's implied that the realm's king is one, and the Institution, (specifically, the Director) is the true power. The king being killed off-panel while the Director gets a much more significant climax with Nimona all but confirms it.
  • Purely Aesthetic Era: The Middle Ages with computers, TV screens, pop corn, finger gloves, earpieces and ray guns.
  • Redemption Equals Affliction: In a dose of Laser-Guided Karma, Goldenloin gets badly injured while fighting Nimona and turning against the Institute openly. It's implied that he'll need to use a cane to walk and that he'll no longer be able to fight. The sign that he has changed is that Ballister waits by his bedside and vows to help him recover.
  • Relationship-Salvaging Disaster: While it's unknown if Goldenloin and Ballister rekindle their romantic relationship, Nimona's rampage forces them to ally and they reconcile in the epilogue.
  • The Reveal: Nimona developed her powers as a child, and she changed into a dragon to save her village. Her parents became terrified of her killing the raiders and handed her over to the Institution, who saw her as a guinea pig for weapons. She was experimented on for years to see the full potential of her powers, and Nimona ran away at the first opportunity. By then she developed cynicism about people after how she was treated, and it's hard to blame her.
  • Revenge Before Reason: This is apparently where Ballister draws the line. He has ample opportunity to avenge his missing arm when pinning down Goldenloin, and to cause widespread havoc or destruction. Instead, Ballister is too much of a Noble Demon. Even when he has a chance to amputate Goldenloin's hand, he refuses, and asks who the real villain is. It's revealed that Nimona doesn't care about the lives that she took and wants to destroy the Institution, no matter the cost. This includes killing guards or anyone unlucky enough to be in the way. Then again, these same people who were supposed to protect her abandoned her. When Ballister finds out why, he's sympathetic but worried that she's killing innocents while on a rampage.
  • Riddle for the Ages: We never do learn how exactly Nimona's powers work, or what caused them in the first place. She herself doesn't know.
  • Rouge Angles of Satin: In-universe; Word of God has stated that knights choose their own names, and suggests that Goldenloin intended himself to be Goldenlion.
  • Running Gag: Nimona has a long-running gag of responding to something said about her with "NO, I'M A SHARK!" complete with often shapeshifting into a shark. It returns at the end of the story, when Nimona leaves behind a message about a shark to let Ballister know that she survived the climax of the story, despite Ballister's belief that she had died.
  • Savvy Guy, Energetic Girl: Ballister and Nimona are a villainous version.
  • Schizo Tech: See Anachronism Stew and Purely Aesthetic Era. There's bows and arrows and Death Rays; a knight's armor has built-in radio.
  • Science Fantasy: While it at first seems like a Standard Fantasy Setting world of knights, magic, and shapeshifters there are also modern conveniences like computers and radios the comic shows exist alongside seemlessly.
  • Shapeshifter Baggage: Lampshaded by Ballister, who notes that Nimona is able to create extra mass for herself seemingly out of nowhere, and how that should be impossible. It's a pretty good hint that there's more to her powers than she lets on.
  • Shapeshifter Mode Lock:
    • After being exposed to Dr. Meredith Blitzmeyer's Anomalous Energy Enhancer at the Science Expo, Nimona gets locked in the form of a cat.
    • The trope is also discussed when Nimona says that if she shifted into the form of an inanimate object, she'd be stuck as that object afterward.
  • Shoo the Dog: While meeting under truce, Goldenloin informs Ballister that the Institute wants Nimona dead. He advises Ballister to send his "sidekick" into hiding so that Nimona may live. Ballister says nuts to that for a lot of reasons, the main being that it's low of Goldenloin to be following the Institute so blindly.
  • Shoot the Dog: When reasoning with Nimona and talking her down doesn't work, Ballister is resigned to defeating her the violent way. He picks up the jaderoot cannon and, while crying, shoots her dragon self while telling her child self that it's still her.
  • Shout-Out: The above Funny Background Event entry contains numerous shout outs, mostly to fantasy and science fiction franchises.
  • Skin Walker: Namedropped to describe Nimona's powers, she claims to be able to take any animal or plant form provided it actually exists.
  • Something Only They Would Say: How Nimona lets Blackheart know she's alive at the end by doodling on a doctor's chart. Sharks, indeed.
  • Sore Loser: Goldenloin. He shot off Ballister's arm after losing to him in a joust, causing Ballister to be expelled from the Institution. Cue Ballister's Face–Heel Turn. Subverted when Goldenloin reveals that he was forced by The Institution to shoot Ballister.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: Fiction often tends to treat weapons of the same kind (say, spears) as more or less interchangeable, and characters can use different weapons with zero change in their performance. (So in most works if someone’s weapon is a spear, then you can give them all kinds of different spears with different designs, lengths, and weights and the character in question will wield them all with equal proficiency). In Goldenloin's joust with Ballister, he found out the hard way that this wasn't true. The Institution supplied Goldenloin with what was more or less a rocket lance that could be used either as a normal lance or have the head fired at an opponent. Sounds cool, but having only been given the lance moments before the joust with no time to familiarize himself with it, and then having to face an expert knight while trying to manage the weight and position of the lance, his shield, and keep control of his horse all at once threw Goldenloin off, leaving a major hole in his defense. Ballister took advantage of this and easily defeated Goldenloin.
  • Talk to the Fist: After Blackheart decides he's heard enough of Goldenloin.
  • Then Let Me Be Evil: If the Academy wants a villain so much, Ballister is happy to give them one — on his own terms, at least.
    • Nimona is a bit more of a mischief-maker, but when she snaps, she snaps, and cities get burnt.
  • They're Called "Personal Issues" for a Reason: Nimona doesn't willingly reveal her real backstory right away.
  • Those Two Guys: The two women who frequently appear in crowd scenes and share a speaking role on chapter 9, page 7. Referred to by fans as the Cute Lesbians.
  • Totalitarian Utilitarian: The Director, of course.
  • Traumatic Haircut: Among the many things the Institution did to Nimona, they shaved her head to do scientific experiments. She keeps a partly-shaved head in her default form, to remember her hatred of them.
  • Ungrateful Townsfolk: In the true and fake versions of Nimona's backstory, she talks about this bitterly with Ballister.
    • She shapeshifted into a dragon after a witch gave her powers, but the witch didn't know how to change her back. Turns out appearing in your hometown as a dragon who can't speak means your friends and family won't recognize you, and then spending a long period of time mastering your powers on your own means you won't actually be there during the raider's next attack and kill everyone.
    • When a six-year-old girl transforms into a dragon, it doesn't matter that she saved the village from raiders: everyone she knows and loves becomes terrified of her. Her own parents deliver her to the Institution and she begs to see them again as the scientists callously discuss that she was abandoned.
  • Unreliable Expositor: Nimona. Her initial account about her backstory in entirely false, a revelation that is foreshadowed by how Ballister starts immediately finding holes in her story.
  • Unstable Genetic Code: Averted, Nimona's abilities are entirely magical in nature in a bit of Doing in the Scientist, her blood type is even revealed to be AB Positive when tested, though the separation caused by the sampling lets her manifest a monstrous side.
  • Unwitting Pawn: Goldenloin has been one to the Institution for his entire life, as it turns out. He truly believes in the stated mission of the Institution and is clueless about their more immoral side.
  • Villainous Valor: Say this much for the Director when she has a final confrontation with Nimona, she doesn't beg, plead, or try to hide, she goes out fighting to the end.
  • Villain Protagonist: Well, hello. Though it's not really played straight, as Blackheart only takes the title of "villain" because that's what he's cast as to the public and his ultimate goal is to punish the corrupt system. Kinda more straight with Nimona, as she's much more interested in being evil for the sake of evil.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: Goldenloin and the Institution. The Institution likes to bill itself as the top force for law and order in the Kingdom, a group of protectors who watch over the people and keep them safe, with Goldenloin as its foremost champion and hero. In reality it's a ruthless organization intent on amassing power and influence, perfectly willing to risk the health and safety of the common citizen, and Goldenloin is a naive and well-meaning patsy. Notably, the good publicity gradually wears off during the course of the story, as Ballister's effort make people increasingly suspicious of the Institution and its actions.
  • Voluntary Shapeshifting: Nimona's superpower. She can transform at will into any living creature, though they're often still red. Word of God says she can change her colors completely, but that takes more concentration.
  • Walking the Earth: Nimona, was doing this in her fake backstory, exploring forests and eating whenever she got hungry. She may have returned to this afterward.
  • Web First: Started as a popular Webcomic that netted the author an agent who got it published, it later got an audiobook adaption.
  • We Used to Be Friends: Ballister and Goldenloin were the two best knights in the Institution, and longtime friends who had grown up together, with Ballister looking after the younger, more naive, and more sensitive Goldenloin. That ended when Goldenloin shot Ballister's arm off after losing a joust to him. And Ballister doesn't learn until late in the story that the Institution forced Goldenloin to shoot Ballister.
  • Wish-Fulfillment: In-universe example, the fake backstory Nimona tells to Blackheart. While it acknowledges that her parents are dead, raiders were involved, and her first transformation was into a dragon when she was six, it removes all of the most painful elements.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Nimona's head gets chopped off by a guard. She gets better. Sort of. She turns into a giant fire monster and incinerates all of them.
  • Would Not Hurt A Child: Goldenloin refuses an order from the Institution to kill Nimona, saying she's just a little girl. Then again, he could be easily replaced... Subverted when he agrees to kill Nimona in exchange for not having to kill Blackheart.
  • You Did the Right Thing: At the end of the story, Ballister's doctor tells him this. He shot a monster to save the kingdom, even if she was his best friend. Ballister responds quietly, "Don't call her a monster." He goes onto say that anyone in Nimona's shoes would have broken as badly as she did. The doctor was actually Nimona, and she's so touched that she reveals to Ballister that she's alive.

The audiobook contains examples of:

  • Adaptational Explanation: The narration expands on the action a few times to link things better as well as having the dialogue rejiggered a few times for better flow.
  • "Facing the Bullets" One-Liner: As the audio version can't use the comics evocative panels instead Child!Nimona says to Beast!Nimona as the complex explodes around them "There, there it's just us. It's always just us."

Alternative Title(s): Nimona