Ninjak #4 is a real swerve of an issue, and I mean that in the best possible way. Just when I was getting a little bit tired of Colin’s storyline, Kindt gives me what I didn’t know I wanted: origin stories for Roku and Kannon. The story stops right in the middle of the shit in which Kindt left Ninjak at the end of the previous issue; the main part of the issue is a retelling of the last things Roku remembers from her old life--before she was killed. She returns in a legendary quest kind of story, unburying herself, and facing off with a variety of oni before she can become who she is now meant to be. Kannon’s story is one of undead monks, impossible mountains, and those who are lost finding what they need. This is the kind of semi-legendary storytelling that I want from a story about a ninja who’s from Britain and operating in modern times.
There are a number of artists on this issue, and I apologize in advance to Juan Jose Ryp, Clay and Seth Mann, and Marguerite Sauvage, if I end up crediting them with the wrong sections. As far as I can tell, the Manns did the framing sequence with Ninjak, Roku and Kannon; Juan Jose Ryp did the bulk of the Roku backstory; and Marguerite Sauvage did the segments from the childrens’ story Roku thinks about during her quest. All of the artwork in this issue is the definition of “on-point,” so I no one should feel slighted when I say that for as disparate as the styles were, they told the story, and they told it well. Even when it would shift radically from a storybook aesthetic to a giant oni trying to break Roku’s back, it told the story the way it had to be told, and it felt organic--Spielberg used to say that if you could follow a movie with the sound turned off, it had been perfectly shot; this is a comic that you could almost take the dialogue out of, and you’d still be able to follow it from point A to point B. As always, Butch Guice is top-notch with the Lost Files backups, as well, and he finally gets to draw something that’s not Ninjak in a cityscape. He gets to flex some other kind of storytelling muscles, and the entire issue is better for it, as both segments skew towards a “Japanese legend” flavor, with a lot of thematic similarities. And then, Ulises Arreola brings it all together with a unified color scheme, and makes it feel like a complete whole, and not three disparate parts.
Usually, I’m rough on Matt Kindt for relying pretty heavily on narrative caps in his issues instead of making characters talk to each other. In this issue, I am glad he’s honed his skills at stories like that, because both parts of this story are solitary and benefit from being told in a fireside-legend kind of way. These are stories that rely as much on mystery as characterization, and Kindt pulls it off in each segment. This is the kind of storytelling I dug from him during Rebel Heist, using legends to tell stories. It hasn’t quite been firing for the first three issues, but this issue really took off.
Just when I thought I was out on Ninjak, Kindt and Co. at Valiant pull me right back in. Well done, all around.
Ninjak #4 Writer: Matt Kindt Art: Juan José Ryp with Clay Mann & Seth Mann and Marguerite Sauvage Color Art: Ulises Arreola Letterer: Dave Sharpe Publisher: Valiant Comics Price: $3.99 Release Date: 6/24/15 Format: Ongoing; Print/Digital