After reading the first issue, my initial impressions of Ninjak were that the similarities to certain pointy-eared DC vigilante were a little too on the nose. Billionaire? Check! Orphaned? Check! Live-in butler in stately mansion? Check! Gadget filled utility belt? Check! The list goes on, but there were some interesting wrinkles to the character that actually helped sell the idea to me, and those ideas are expanded upon in this second issue.
Following the same structure of the opening issue, the book is split into three main narrative threads. The main plot concerns Ninjak’s attempts to infiltrate an organisation named Weaponeer, a company that manufactures and distributes black market weapons. Weaponeer are run by a group known as the Shadow Seven, and it’s CEO, Kannon, is Ninjak’s gateway to destroying the organisation from the inside. Colin King’s upbringing and training in espionage are the focus of the other two threads, the latter forming the issue’s backup story.
The benefit of splitting the book in this way is obvious, and it’s a bit of a masterstroke by Matt Kindt. It allows the main story to be told at breakneck pace, a pace that very much suits the action-oriented style. Colin’s abusive childhood at the hands of his guardian does offer a little breathing space, showing a vulnerable but resolute young man in contrast to the supremely confident and slick super-spy he has become. His paternal surrogate is no Alfred Pennyworth, and it’s clear their relationship informs how the Colin/Ninjak character develops. The backup story is more measured and deliberate in approach, highlighting the moral boundaries someone in his line of work must negotiate, and serves to round out the character a little more.
As welcome as the ongoing character development is, the standout element of the series so far has to be the blockbuster artwork in both the main story and backup. Clay Mann’s bold, brash, art is slick and cinematic in scale, replete with cool characters and ambitiously flash layouts, that pop off the page thanks to Ulises Arreloa’s vibrant technicolor palette. In fact, if there is one minor criticism, it’s that Mann’s a bit too ambitious at times, with some pages lacking direction and subsequently disrupting the narrative flow. The backup art by Butch Guice, however, nails the tone and storytelling perfectly. Arreola’s colours are suitably adjusted to suit Guice’s heavier inking style, which gives the story a grounded, grittier feel.
Building on a solid opening, Ninjak continues to impress on all fronts. Matt Kindt is doing an admirable job here, and the art team are quite simply killing it.
[Click to Enlarge]