REVIEW: Ninjak #12

Writer: Matt Kindt

Artist: Doug Braithwaite, Juan José Ryp

Colourist: Brian Reber, Ulises Arreola

Release Date: 10/02/16

Publisher: Valiant Entertainment

QUICK REVIEW HAIKU

Far more exciting

Art supports the action well

Shouldn’t have recapped

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Ninjak is a story that’s previously had so much depth and, thanks to the proactive nature of its titular character, has always kept driving forwards at an unrelenting pace. Therefore, it’s been odd to read the first two issues of this story arc and find a protagonist that seems content to go along for the ride; he’s admittedly out of his depth, but his arrogance should keep him going. Luckily, this story picks back up again as Ninjak and his Deadside expert, the magnificent Punk Mambo, divide their efforts, giving them each the chance to shine on their own merits.

Their individual stories divide the issue in two, where each part of the story feels crucial, and shows a side of each of the characters that we’ve not had much chance to explore. Punk Mambo gets the chance to show off her raw power and her mental prowess in battle in a brilliantly framed fight scene. Braithwaite creates some very dynamic layouts here as both Mambo and the hammer-weilding Ember crash through buildings in a very Man of Steel style. Dave Sharpe’s colours create clear characters in even the most amorphous of blobs, with the shadows rounding out each character. This sequence is enthralling from the very beginning and, thanks to the tragic connection between these characters revealed last issue, it has an added sense of consequence and weight.

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One thing that I loved about this issue was how it embraced the absurdity and incredulity of the situation. Helped in part by the comedic narration from Neville Alcott that frames the confrontation, as he attempts to explain the plot to a superior, it’s clear that Kindt isn’t afraid to have fun in a series with some very dark undertones. It prevents the issue from feeling too dark and weighty and, at the end of the day, embraces the fact that it’s a comic book with an unlimited budget that allows it to introduce all of the plot elements that would be near impossible to create accurately on-screen.

Unfortunately, Colin King (Ninjak) drives forward a narrative that I don’t think was necessary and feels slightly too superfluous. Far too much time was dedicated to explaining Magpie/Shadowman’s motivations when it’s been explicitly explored in the backup features of past issues. It takes up valuable space that could have been used far more effectively that would have given Ninjak a tenable task to complete. There is some catch-up contained within the aforementioned comedic narration from Neville Alcott, but it’s presented in such a hilarious faction that it’s very easy to forgive.

Although it’s clear from the offset of this adventure, thanks to a few helpful hateful exclamations, that Ninjak is inexperienced with this world of magic, it’s easy to identify exactly why he’s taken this mission on. By the way that he talks to the antagonist, the aforementioned Magpie, we see him attempting to manoeuvre his way through a situation that he doesn’t understand by utilising the skills that he does possess. Watching him try to use his skills, in a world where they clearly no longer apply, adds an extra layer to all of his interactions; he’s clearly a very broken and narcissistic person but would never admit it to himself.

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As always, the bonus Hidden Files segment in the final pages of the issue comes in and blows your mind out of the water. Kindt seems to be a master of foreshadowing plot developments in this section of the book that adds depth to previous narratives; this trend has fallen off in recent months, so it’s fantastic to see that make a return. The potential link between a important part of Ninjak’s past and future allows the plot to feel far more full-circle than it otherwise would; you’re able to easily realise that there’s a long-game playing out here and I look forward to seeing where it goes.

Time after time, I see Juan José Ryp’s art and fall in love with whatever he’s portraying; his pairing with his ongoing colourist, Ulises Arreola, is a perfect match. The choice to regularly fill the panels with more earthy tones cement this story in the past while also allowing the brighter colours used for the magic and fire effects to stand out. From his recent contributions, I’ve been worried that José Ryp’s art tends towards exaggeratedly deformed faces, but it’s great to see those fears unfounded.

Despite knowing that this series still landed high up my list of favourite books, I have to admit that the first two parts of this arc have felt a lot less substantial. However, this is the chapter to really turn my opinion around; as he is wont to do, Kindt has brought all of the little details together to create something extraordinarily compelling. With a talented art team behind him, and pushing Juan José Ryp into the position of one of my all-time favourite artists, Kindt can do no wrong on this book. I’m in until the end and there’s no doubt in my mind that it’s going to continue along at this quality.

FINAL SCORE: 8.5/10

1794510_10152296358040871_1273862368_n Written by Mark Dickson

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