Review: Ninjak #1 (Valiant)

If you’re reading anything from Valiant then you’ve likely been looking forward to Ninjak #1. Hell I’ve been waiting for it since it was announced last year at NYCC and after talking to Matt Kindt. To say that he likes this character is an understatement and to say that the work he’s doing with the character is “great” is also an understatement. After reading Unity #15, an issue that was all about Ninjak, I was reaching new heights of anticipation for this first issue. The extended preview we posted last week only served to entice me further so when I finally got it in my hands I’ll admit… I was nervous. I mean I’ve been looking forward to this series for months and usually that’s when it all goes wrong. My anticipation gets the better of me and suddenly I’m trying to find ways to stay positive on a review for a book that I should have been praising.

Ninjak #1 doesn’t disappoint. It lives up to the hype and then kills it with a sword and a Zatoichi reference. It’s easy to win me over when you reference Zatoichi a film series that myself and thousands of others love and enjoy. The point to all of this is that Ninjak is not going to be one of those over-hyped, under-delivered first issues.

The story gives you a taste of everything Ninjak. The time line seems to be before his X-0 debut or at least before Unity and shows Ninjak doing an MI-6 mission. In-between we also see Colin as a kid which feeds into developing his personality more for the story. There’s nothing else I need to tell you about the story because Kindt does a fantastic job of giving you a little of everything about his character, but does it in a way that isn’t annoying or trivial. Instead you will develop an overall understanding and appreciation for the character.

NINJAK_001_COVERA_LAROSAA good story can become great with the right art and that’s where Clay Mann comes in. Mann’s art is some of the best in comics. It took just one issue and I can say that with confidence because I have enjoyed every piece of art that has released for this series. I hope that Valiant paces themselves with Ninjak and let’s Mann stay ahead of the releases much like Rai. If not then they better find a Clay Mann clone because his art makes this series beyond great in my opinion.

The photo-realistic imagery may scream “cinematic” as it should, but Mann is a skilled visual storyteller and is fully aware of the medium he’s in. This is clearly illustrated with the Zatoichi reference when the artwork pulls out from the screen and we see a wide-eyed young Colin soaking in the action. Speaking of the action… bamf! Seriously it’s fluid and creative. Roku’s movement was inventive and not just a simple jump and punch. All of the action just serves to make you want more. If there isn’t a silent issue in the future of this series which is just one big ass battle then it’s a missed opportunity.

As for the ink and the coloring they’re hard to separate from the art. They feel like a natural extension of the artwork which is exactly what you want. Especially the inking which could easily drown out the photorealism. They blend together naturally and seeing that synergy on the art is a wonderful thing even if it makes you forget that three people were involved in it.

There’s also a great back up story that I won’t give you any details about, but it shows Colin starting off with MI-6 and again it added a layer to the character. It was the first back-up story that didn’t feel like a simple page filler. I’m looking forward to more of just the backup story and hell if it were to become its own series… I would buy the crap out of it as well.

I could honestly rant about this book more, but I think it’s better if you just read it. On the podcast this week we talked about it and Kevin asked if it’s Valiant’s best title and I said, “Yes.” I mean that. With one issue it’s become my favorite series from the publisher and I have to say that Matt Kindt was right… Ninjak is awesome.

Score: 5/5

Ninjak #1 Writer: Matt Kindt Artist: Clay Mann, Butch Guice Publisher: Valiant Comics Price: $3.99 Release Date: 3/11/15 Format: Ongoing; Print/Digital

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