Rating: 4.5/5 – Valiant’s Powerless Hero Makes a Powerful Starring Debut.
by ComicSpectrum reviewer R.C. Killian
The name “Ninjak” can be a bit hard to get past for some people. It was already a bit of an eye-roll for me in the 90s, seeming to symbolize the clumsily forced “awesome” and “extreme” quotients with a name that was basically “ninja” with another letter. This doesn’t, of course, reflect on the book itself, as many books were lost to that first-look judgment, particularly at that time. And the decision to revive the character, peculiar name intact, only reflects the values of modern Valiant: devotion to the original characters.
When Valiant re-launched in 2012, Ninjak didn’t appear for a little while—eventually pretty plainly doing so on X-O Manowar #6 (which even has the blurb, “Enter: Ninjak!” on the cover). He bounced around the standing titles here and there, eventually finding a home in Matt Kindt’s Unity a year and a half ago. Now, the almost-Batman-but-not-really Colin King—British, suave, devoted far more to his work than his secret identity, and professional in it far beyond the realms of the average person—was on a team with fellow warriors, but able to fill the role of spy as no one else could so readily. He ended up being believably useful even against the incredible might of the Armor Hunters, despite the comparative infancy of his otherwise insanely-advanced-for-Earth technology, born of gobs and gobs of money.
Unity is currently running through a phase of solo-focused books, letting each of the team members hold an issue of their own. Last month we saw Ninjak’s issue; running himself into the ground to stick with his work over all else, despite his exhaustion. It seems peculiar to drop that issue right before his own series is launched, but I can now say that it exposed us to something other than what this book focuses on—one of the joys of Valiant’s largely consistent writing teams, as Kindt wrote both.
Now we have a new enemy for Colin: Roku, a woman who is, as his MI-6 handler Neville Alcott tells him (and us), every bit his equal if not his superior. In addition to extensive training and technical skill (which does not, it should be said, relate to streaming apps to televisions), her hair holds tensile strength and edge enough to function as blade or garrote. Alcott’s mission for King is more extensive than this suggests—this is espionage, after all!—and it’s part of a much more extensive criminal empire called the Shadow Seven, giving us a nice clean set up for the arc-to-come. Interspersed with this are flashes of Colin’s childhood, something we’ve not been exposed to before, but that is hinted at on the interior of the front cover, which doubles as an inventory of his equipment and his psychological profile—matching “5-function throwing disks” to his emotional shell and so on, which is a pretty clever trick that serves as a “Previously in…” for a book that has no “previously” to add.
While Unity #11 and #15 let us see that Matt Kindt is really invested in the character of Ninjak and of justifying “a supremely well-trained guy” next to psiots, extraterrestrial armor, giant robots, and millennia-old warriors, Ninjak lets him explore the character more comfortably, without needing to touch back on other characters, switch focus after a given issue to one of said characters, or justify Ninjak’s presence in a cosmic battle. Clay Mann’s pencils and Seth Mann’s inks really sell the book, too, with well-staged and clear action, and a really great pairing of writer and artist for the first page, which opens on an unexplained ninja battle, immediately becoming clearly the sight enthralling a very young Colin, with shots that make his absolute absorption in this and its obvious inspiration—apparent in a point of perfection. Ninjak is set to keep modern Valiant’s blemishes to an absolute minimum, and keep itself on the higher end of even that stellar record.
Reviewed by: R.C. Killian
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