The longer I work in comics both as a writer and here at Bleeding Cool, the less time it seems I have to read comics. It's hard to remember the last time I just read for fun. And I have a huge stack of comics waiting for me to read them. So I decided I would pull a stack of books out form a single title read it and then review it as a whole… justifying my reading time. And the stack I pulled out first? Ninjak #1 – #9 from Valiant Entertainment.
The current Ninjak series is on issue #11 as of this month and it's into a new storyarc called Operation: Deadside that includes Shadowman and Punk Mambo. It started with issue #10 which I also read, but I'm going to focus on the Weaponeer / Shadow Wars storylines for now.
For those unfamiliar with the character, Ninjak is Colin King, a rich English businessman who is also a freelance agent for MI-6. If you read the Valiant Universe Handbook it tells you that not much is known of Ninjak's mysterious past, but this series is trying to change that. Written by Matt Kindt, the book is split into two parts: the main storyline and the Lost Files. Each section is handled by a different artist starting off with Clay Mann on the main part and Butch Guice on the second. And it's that way for issues 1, 2, 3 and 5 with artists Juan Jose Ryp, Marguerite Sauvage, Raul Allen and Stephen Segovia all jumping in.
The main storyline focuses on King's latest assignment, to find and infiltrate the Weaponeer and elminiate the Shadow Seven. The Weaponeer are a group of weapons manufactures that will create whatever weapon you want for a price. King works his way in by first rescuing a woman named Roku, who is pretty close to being a living weapon. She is actually escaping a Russian prison on her own, one the Russians built up around her because she was too dangerous to move. Ninjak comes in and stops her from blowing everything, including herself, up while she is escaping. He then lets her go. This ingratiates himself to her boss, Kannon who is the head of the Weaponeer.
Meanwhile the backstory shows King growing up with his absent parents… who are even more absent when they are home… and the abusive butler that they leave him with. We learn a lot about him, his parents, what motivates him and eventually leads him to working for MI-6. That's the other thing we learn is that he is an agent before he becomes Ninjak. We learn that his past is tied to someone called the Undead Monk and the Shadow Seven.
This turns out to be a personal story and an origin story of sorts. We learn that his name comes from a project where he is Ninja-K… and we learn where he gets his training and abilities. But the story splits between the main and the past and its a little ways in before you realize how it all connects.
Kindt's storytelling is strong on mood and character development but at times it misses the details. Something simple like the fact they are going after the Shadow Seven but only ever come across five of them. Maybe they count the Monk, Roku or Ninjak as the other two but that doesn't seem right and it was never explained. The build up to the fights at times were better than the fights themselves and there was never a moment that it felt like Ninjak might not win. So where I really like the character and enjoyed the story being told, there were some areas it definitely could've been improved.
Though the art changes frequently, it's never a bad thing. The use of the two artist on the main and past stories helps to keep them separate. The use of a different artist when telling the story from another persons point of view (issue #4) worked as well.
Ninjak is a fun series, Kindt creates a compelling and exciting character to follow. I look forward to seeing what other pieces of Colin King's past we'll find as the series progresses.
Cover art by: Lewis Larosa and Clay Mann.