Review: Ninjak #2

MI-6’s very own British ninja is back for more industrial espionage, flashbacks to a troubled childhood, and purple stealth gear! Let’s get right down to it, gang. Colin has managed to infiltrate the base levels of Weaponeer, the largest illegal-weapons cabal in the world, and now he has his sights set higher--becoming the new CEO. Kannon takes him to an exotic club called The Zoo and tells him to prove himself by putting a bullet in someone’s head, and that will get him on the Board of Directors. Roku, the woman with the razor hair, covers their escape from a bloody errand, and the story flashes back to Colin’s childhood with his butler (who is apparently like Alfred from the Batman books, if Alfred was the biggest dick on the planet?), before we cut to Ninjak making a final play against the weak link in the chain that is Kannon.

Kindt is doing a lot of interesting stuff with Ninjak. He’s got a book that seems ready-made and easy to sell as James-Bond-plus-ninja, but he makes the choice to set this book apart from other action-heavy Valiant titles, like Bloodshot Reborn. This is a book about the interior life of a killer, as well as sort of a Hawkeye-ish “this is what Ninjak does when he’s not being Ninjak” feeling. I mean, hell, the book starts with a couple of epic pages of a nightclub with women in tiger-pattern bikinis riding actual tigers and chimpanzees in little dickies serving drinks (which is what I can only hope is the future of dance clubs), but it concerns itself more with the preparation that goes into one effective moment, and the kind of childhood that would lead to a man like this. There’s even a three-page sequence of storybook illustrations.

NINJAK_002_COVER-A_LAROSAWhile I still don’t love Kindt’s narration-heavy style, I like that the guy latches onto symbols and rides them out. There’s a watch metaphor at the end that is particularly good, not least because it manages to overcome the Butch Coolidge “my father’s watch” syndrome. But the real stars of this book are the artists, Clay Mann and Butch Guice. They both have pretty drastically different styles, with Mann being a very realistic artist with lots of intricate lines, and Guice tends more towards a John Paul Leon/Steve Epting style, with plenty of blocky blacks and rough lines. Mann particularly shines in this issue, for a couple of reasons. I mean, the poor guy has to draw a villain whose extremely long, razor-sharp hair is her primary weapon. It’s like if Medusa from the Inhumans didn’t have huge blocks of hair, but just long, thin whips. He also manages to make the shift to storybook style and then into a flashback, where he pulls off a reverse tracking shot, pulling back from the book, down the hall, into the kitchen. It’s overly cinematic, perhaps, but it’s a technical feat--you almost never see that kind of pull-back framing in comics.

Ninjak is pretty solid. It has moments that wow me every month, but as a complete package, it always leaves me wanting more. I get a lot from it--there are three discrete chunks in this month’s issue and they all check in again at the end--but I get so little of each part that I don’t really know where to set my feet. I know where Kindt is trying to lead us, so I’m willing to take the ride and watch Ninjak take his lumps, the pacing just seems a little skewed. As much as I’m digging the “early days of Ninjak” back-ups, I’d much rather see something that directly ties in (he says, assuming that those shorts won’t directly tie in, and if they do, what a plotting masterpiece). I still want to keep up with this one, more so than Kindt’s other recent Valiant projects, I just can’t wait for it to really start clicking.

Score: 3/5

Ninjak #2 Writer: Matt Kindt Artist: Clay Mann, Butch Guice Publisher: Valiant Comics Price: $3.99 Release Date: 4/22/15 Format: Ongoing; Print/Digital