Review: Ninjak #5

After last month’s mythological and masterful diversion into the origin of Roku, Ninjak returns to close out its first arc in a satisfying way, leaving more breadcrumbs to follow through the back-up stories to keep us coming back in a couple months. In what is essentially the resolution to the cliffhanger at the end of issue 3, Ninjak takes on Roku and Kannon who have discovered that he is not who he seems. He’s able to hold his own against Roku before Kannon orders her off so that he can fight Ninjak himself. Luckily for us, both he and Roku beat the living crap out of Ninjak (regular readers will know that I love when the hero gets the living crap beaten out of him to rise above it--it’s like those classic Daredevil or Spider-Man stories). Eventually, Ninjak is able to triumph over Kannon using an equal mix of inventiveness and cruelty, as is his wont. Cutting ties with Neville and taking over from Kannon at Weaponeer to try and track down the remaining six of the Shadow Seven, we leave Ninjak in the murky scenarios where we found him. In the flashback sequences, we see Colin as a child find out that there is much more to his parents than he knew, and it’s a secret with violent and lasting consequences; in his young adulthood, he mourns the death of his handler while betraying her to save himself and remain a spy.

NINJAK_005_VARIANT_ALLENNinjak has never shied away from being a complicated book, which should come as no surprise; I don’t believe Kindt has ever sat down with the intention of writing a simple one. There are layers upon layers to peel away, from Colin’s childhood, through his agent training in the “Lost Files” back-ups, through to the exploded view diagrams of Ninjak’s tech that Kindt includes on the inside cover of each issue. In fact, those diagrams, which would seem skippable at first glance to a casual reader, often offer up a better insight to Ninjak’s psyche than an entire issue. Which is not to say I begrudge the issues; they have interesting interactions and pretty boss fights.

This book has walked a thin line in the last five months between what it means to be a spy, and what a book about a spy should be about. If James Bond went undercover in SPECTRE, killed Blofeld and became head of SPECTRE to take down the organization, that would be this book--it would also be a horrible James Bond story. Where Bond is debonair and always wins, Ninjak is a spy who is highly trained and incredibly skilled, but has become accustomed to not necessarily winning, but to losing less. He is in a business of acceptable losses, both to his personal life and his professional life. He loses a handler to keep himself in business, he loses his support as a spy to become a better mole. He’s a man accustomed to cutting himself off, no matter what.

I’m especially intrigued by the end of this issue to see where the “Lost Files” are going to go. I have a pretty decent idea of what the second arc of the main storyline will be, as it’s pretty clearly stated. “Lost Files” right now seems like trivia about Ninjak’s origin, but knowing Kindt and Mann are in this for a long haul, I’m intrigued to see where it’ll be in five, ten, twenty issues, and if it’s going to dovetail with some epic finale for the series, or if they will rather use it as a graceful counterpoint to the end of Ninjak.

Either way, this book is as solid as ever: reliably entertaining, gorgeous to look at, courtesy of Clay and Seth Mann, Brian Thies, Butch Guice and Ulises Arreola, and I’m excited to see where Kindt, Mann, Guice and co. are taking it next.

Score: 5/5

Ninjak #5 Writer: Matt Kindt Pencillers: Clay Mann, Butch Guice Inker: Seth Mann, Brian Thies Colorist: Ulises Arreola Letters: Dave Sharpe Publisher: Valiant Comics Price: $3.99 Release Date: 7/29/15 Format: Ongoing, Print/Digital