Story: Matt Kindt
Art: Clay Mann (pencils-main), Seth Mann (inks-main), Butch Guice (art-backup), Ulises Arreola (colours)
“He’s got swords, style, a funny accent and he lives in castle. WHAT MORE COULD YOU WANT?!”
That’s the essentials of this series. Ninjak has been a mainstay of the Valiant universe of comics for quite a while now, getting his start with an explosive entry in XO Manowar and then being a solid part of the Unity team and buddy-ing up with the Eternal Warrior. But now he finally gets his own solo series and given the meteoric rise of pretty much the entire line of comics and all, it’s a lot of expectation for any comic. So how does this first issue live up to the hype?
For the first time, Ninjak’s past and future collide.
Then: Meet inexperienced MI6 recruit Colin King on his first mission in the field as he learns the basics of spycraft and counterintelligence, and develops a volatile relationship with his first handler.
Now: Colin King is Ninjak, the world’s foremost intelligence operative, weapons expert, and master assassin. And he’s hunting the Shadow Seven – a secret cabal of shinobi masters with mysterious ties to his training and tragic past.
My favourite thing about this issue is actually 2 things:
1) The bouncing between the past and the present is not balanced and I like it. Not unlike the Arrow TV series, it shows us just enough of the past, without dwelling or revealing too much and focussing primarily on the here and now instead of trying to be “equal”. While we want the backstory and that is the point of this series (for now at least), I want to read a comic about Ninjak being Ninjak and this gave me that!
2) It does the thing that is critical to a first issue and particularly to the Valiant Next initiative under which this book was launched, i.e., to be accessible to new readers. This works quite well because it does not make any connections to the larger Valiant Universe, feeling more like it’s own little world. This may well change as the series goes along, but I didn’t feel either that I should have read some previous issues or that it was unclear or disconnected from its past. This is Ninjak on a solo adventure.
Matt Kindt has has a pretty steady rise as one of the better comic writers out there and his spread of work across publishers has shown his diversity and skill. But it is definitely with the Valiant characters that I find his superhero writing has not just hit its stride, but sprinted ahead of many of it’s bigger-named peers. He brings a nice sense of character to Colin/Ninjak and from the intro page where we get little insights into him, to the adventure he is on and his narration during it, to the childhood we see – it all coalesces to a character that I wanted to know more about. Kindt here has made me care more about the Ninjak character than I would have thought likely as a solo comic.
I also quite like the new villainess Roku – her powers vis-a-vis her multi-functional yet more practical and “realistic” than Medusa from Marvel was a nice, creative touch and I look forward to seeing more of her.
The artwork has a nice style to it – very much like other Valiant comics, so not outstanding for base style. What really set it apart was the fight scenes between Ninjak and Roku. Something about the flow, the choices of visual and the dynamics of it was thoroughly enjoyable and I give major kudos to Clay and Seth Mann for it all. The colours were nice and worked well with the art, but nothing to write home about.
The Back-up story was a nice diversion, a way of delving further into Colins’ past and journey toward becoming Ninjak that didn’t impede the main story and added a new dimension to it by focussing on his earliest days in “the biz” as it were. Short, simple and to-the-point, it was well told.
(SLIGHT SPOILER HERE!!)
Overall this comic had very few flaws – the only real glaring one however, would probably be the introduction of the many-Ninja concept.
During a briefing scene in the comic, we get introduced to a moment where we see a list of names that reads “Ninja-A, Ninja-B..” and so on and so forth and includes our hero, Ninja-K.
Though to some this may not be a big deal, I was not crazy about this concept. Ninjak is a character that has been established REPEATEDLY and literally just a few panels prior in this very issue, as a man who chooses to work on his own, will not commit to MI6 and likes to keep his options open. So why would there be an MI6 list of multiple Ninja’s in this code-name style? Didn’t he choose his own name? Does he not HAVE a tag/title of his own choosing that he likes to call his Ninja persona? Even assuming I allow for other things, why would MI6 have so many Ninja special agents on the board?
It all just felt a bit much.
The other thing I was not crazy about was the art in the back-up comic. While it was not bad, after reading the main story, it felt like a step down in some respects. A marginal step, mind you, but not quite so good nonetheless. Part of that I ascribe to one person pencilling and inking instead of two like the main comic. This second comic also felt a little like it would be a journey that would entwine him more and more with the MI6 world – I have no inherent problem with that and have not read the original 90’s version, but I just wonder how we can have him transform from what he starts as to what we know he becomes while under the hand of MI6 and how he could possibly come out as a free-agent on the other end of all this.
Firstly, this is an excellent comic and I would definitely recommend it to one and all. Be you a spandex fan, a non-superhero fan or just anyone who likes a good action comic – this is one that is both a great entry point and an engaging read for new and old fans.
Secondly, while I have concerns as raised above, I take comfort that Kindt has shown his mettle and will eventually assuage all my doubts once he addresses them. In the meantime, I plan to enjoy the comic for what it is right now and try not to nit-pick so much.
So, in closing, give it a shot. Worth it.
Story Score: 10 / 10
Art Score: 8.9 / 10
Overall Score: 9.5 / 10