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Ninjak #0

by Jason Laframboise on September 13, 2017

As a special treat because we are both huge Ninjak fans, this weeks review you get both of your faithful Valiant reviewers giving you our thoughts on this huge issue of Ninjak. 

Published by Valiant Comics

Let’s get this out of the way: Ninjak is my favorite Valiant character, and I think Matt Kindt’s run on the series was absolutely amazing. It really fleshed out a character that above all else was notable for his secrecy and mystery. Much like Batman, I think it’s fair to say that nobody really knows much about Ninjak, even his closest ally at MI:6 or his Unity teammates. The Ninjak series has been incredible because in addition to telling a compelling action story in the present, it created the personal history of Colin King stretching from pre-conception through childhood, and later training with MI:6 and the Undead Monk. It’s a staggeringly thorough document for the formative history of the character, and as such, it leaves relatively little room for a zero issue, which usually serves the function of telling a character’s hidden origin. This issue was admittedly a little light in terms of new material, but it contains some nuggets for close readers.

The narrative thrust around this issue centers around the concept of compartmentalization. Ninjak explains that he keeps all episodes of his life stored and locked away in separate containers for safekeeping. This is undoubtedly an asset for a high-paid mercenary who often works for unsavory characters. The frame tale of this issue revolves around a highly murderous robbery/recovery/hit mission, funded by a shady open-shirted dude named Marco. The issue is littered with painful episodes that Ninjak would benefit from compartmentalizing. Meanwhile, the astute Valiant reader will notice that the frame story also ties into the events of X-O Manowar #5 from 2012, the first appearance of Ninjak in the modern Valiant universe. I would argue begins a chain of events that transforms Ninjak from a high-paid loner mercenary to a hero (although still highly paid). If the main intent of the issue was to draw attention to the momentous meeting of Ninjak and the larger Valiant universe, then there is some value there. I do wish that they had provided any meaningful details about Ninjak’s mission in this issue, if only to paint a deeper picture about Ninjak’s past.

I was also struck by the depiction of young Colin King in this issue. We see young Colin killing and mutilating birds, an action that is generally attributed to budding serial killers in the popular culture. I’m not sure if I should be surprised by this revelation. We have seen Ninjak kill many beings, human and non-human, and we’ve also seen him engage in torture. However, his actions in the comics have usually been in service of good, so he generally gets a pass. What if Ninjak’s actions over the years have really been in service of some deep-seeded sadism and sociopathy? I’m not sure I’m ready to deal with the possibility that, like TV’s Dexter, Ninjak’s actions are really motivated by a compulsion to kill or maim. That would make Ninjak the darkest of Valiant’s morally grey hero roster.

I will tip my hat to the art in this issue. Francis Portela handles the art for the majority of the issue stretching across the “current” timeline of the story. He does a great job rendering the bloody carnage of Ninjak shredding dozens of yakuza and ninja monks. The flashback sequences were divided amongst a roster of talented artists, and they were all thoroughly enjoyable. And Andrew Dalhouse’s colors are amazing as usual. The current storyline is very moody with late afternoon lighting and interior candlelight, while the flashback sequences provide a chance to mix things up with the colors and moods.

This issue also contained a teaser story for the upcoming Ninja-K series, and it looks absolutely fantastic. I am on the edge of my seat for the world-building in this series, which promises to explain the British government’s Ninja program and to fill in historical details spanning the last century. This teaser packs a lot of action and it includes some tantalizing hints about the plot of the series. My guess would be that the ninja that is featured is a villain of the series, and he’s confronting a previous agent from the program (Ninja-D), assumedly in retaliation for some loss at the hands of other Ninja agents. I think this promises to be a fantastic series, and I can’t wait until November. That Giorello art tho!

Ah an issue I've been dreading. The end of the great Matt Kindt's amazing run on Ninjak. This book has become my favourite read pretty much every month. I feel like I've spent entire reviews singing the praises of the great Matt Kindt. Annnnd today is no different, I really loved this issue. It's another solid outing from the master. My one complaint is that the issue really doesn't matter much in the scope of things. It is sort of the the cherry on top of the large awesome sundae we've been enjoying, but it really doesn't add much. It's a well written cherry but you can still enjoy the sundae without it. The brief back up feature felt more consequential with it being a prelude to the up coming Ninja.K series, but it was very short.  

Not a fan of the use of animal cruelty, not at all. There is a scene where a young Colin King cuts the heads off some birds. I assume to show that King is maybe slightly psychotic. Not a fan, I felt that it was a disturbing unnecessary addition to the story. Ick.

In the first story I love the page layout. We had the actual action taking place on the top half of the page while the bottom half is Ninjak reminiscing about his adventures, thus getting you the reader caught up with the series prior to the launch of the new title. I love the idea of using the page space like this, almost like the way toppers were used in old school comic strips. The action was well done, although I did find myself having to go back and re read the top as I was more interested in the stuff on the lower page. Francis Portella's art was really great in the modern day stuff while a whole roster of Valiant artists handled the flashbacks. No matter the part of the page I focus it was all visually great. Tomas Giorello handled the art in the prelude section. I actually enjoyed the art here more than in the main story. I'm assuming that he will be joining Christos Gage on Ninja.K if that is the case the art is going to be solid.

The backup does its job of whetting the appetite for the new series and nicely lets the main store breathe on its own. It's a nice way to close off what has been a really great series. A big thanks to Matt Kindt for the awesome job on Ninjak and best of luck to Christos Gage.  8/10
Review by Jason Laframboise

There you have it folks, a special double review from your Valiant reviewers. See you next week!



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