I'm not going to pretend like I have a knowledge of Zen Intergalactic Ninja. I'm aware that it has a history, including an NES videogame release from the 1990's.
As usual, I throw that out there as a disclaimer. I'm not too familiar with Zen.
However, I'm always willing to try new things, and my father recommended this one to me. He read a couple of issues from the last run and suggested that I try the new book.
So, this 30th Anniversary issue of Zen finds the titular Intergalactic Ninja on the hunt for the place he came from. He meditates upon this, and his master, Satva, leads him to a woman in a space station orbiting the planet Baltoon.
Unfortunately, that planet is surrounded by an alien biker gang called the Rygulians. He must liberate the planet from these thugs before he can access the station and meet the woman who may very well be his mother.
Zen seems to make some shattering discoveries about himself in this comic. He takes it really well. He takes it too well. He really doesn't seem to care about the implications of his origins.
(Spoilers ahead) Zen figures out he was created in an experiment and almost aborted by his "father." And don't get me wrong, the "woe is me, I'm a lab creation" trope has been overused and become near insufferable. It almost always ends in the same conclusion: "I decide who and what I am."
But, he should care a little. He should at least ponder it. And that brings us to the next problem with this comic.
Zen is charming and chatty, which is a change of pace from the typical silent and brooding ninja type character. However, he's pretty chilled out. But that's kind of a problem too. He's too aloof. He doesn't really seem to consider much of anything around him for more than a second before just going along with it.
Ironically, Zen is too zen.
While a laid-back hero is something of a rarity in modern comics, it does have the side effect of making Zen seem either a bit dimwitted or a bit of a sociopath. He either doesn't take the time to consider the consequences of the things around him or he actually can't. Either one would be fine if the comic took the time to at least ponder those ideas.
And maybe the history of Zen explains all of this. Maybe there are multiple storylines which explain these aspects of his personality enough so that I would be okay will all of this. That's why I put that disclaimer at the beginning. However, I've seen comic writers and artists do way more with characterization in less space. Alien Toilet Monsters, for example, accomplishes this with aplomb.
And I get that I'm tearing into something which is just supposed to be a celebration of a character with a cult following, but, well, I'm a critic. That's what I do. It may see a little heartless, but this comic just didn't gel.
The art is decent. It's inconsistent, but it has a stylistic charm that make some panels look really cool, even if some are a bit lacking. I do desperately wish they decided to color this comic, as I imagine a lot of these things would look pretty dazzling if they were colorized.
This isn't an awful comic. Zen is charming at times, his robot companion is cool, and the action sequences hold up. However, all of this together don't make up for the myriad of shortcomings. This celebration of Zen doesn't seem to do the character justice, and, unless you are a diehard fan who wants all the Zen publications for collection's sake, I can't recommend it. Give this one a pass.