Review – Ninjak vs. The Valiant Universe #1 (Valiant)

Publisher: Valiant Entertainment
Writer: Eliot Rahal
Artwork: Joe Bennett
Release Date: 10th January 2018

Ninjak vs. the Valiant Universe is an interesting beast.  It takes place outside of the existing Valiant continuity, serving as a companion to the upcoming live action web series.  It’s being marketed as the perfect jumping-on point for the Valiant Universe, and this first issue – from writer Eliot Rahal and artist Joe Bennett – serves as an introduction to our title character as well as providing readers with a showcase of exactly what he’s capable of.

Sadly, the plot is about as uninspired as you can get, and doesn’t feel at all representative of the relentlessly creative Valiant Universe as a whole.  Ninjak is blackmailed by Roku into stealing a mysterious package (“Asset 147”, for what it’s worth) from MI6, the Valiant Universe is mobilised to stop him, and… well… that’s about it.  For a publisher that has been pumping out some of the most inventive and nuanced superhero stories on the shelves for over a decade now, it feels like a bit of a cop-out, to be honest.

It’s also worth noting that Eliot Rahal is a much better writer than he’s allowed to be here, feeling almost hamstrung by some of the storyline beats already in place courtesy of the live-action series.  He does a solid job with the dialogue, filling the pages with enjoyable banter, but given the rapid-fire pace of the series, it feels like it’s going to be incredibly difficult for new readers to get a real grip on the characters as they’re rapidly introduced – a bit of a drawback for an event that’s being marketed as a “jumping-on point”, I’m sure you’ll agree.

It’s not all bad though, and there are some great moments along the way, with Roku standing out as a bit of a highlight, even if her involvement is perfunctory at best.  Bennett’s artwork is also slick and polished throughout, and there’s a real sense of fluidity to his action scenes that is definitely going to serve the action-heavy series in good stead as the story unfolds.

A fun but flimsy affair, Ninjak vs. the Valiant Universe only really serves as a jumping-on point in the loosest of terms, providing readers with a diluted and superficial version of the much-loved Valiant world of comics.  It looks the part, and it’s an enjoyable enough read, but as an eye-catching advertisement designed to lure in new readers, it really doesn’t measure up to the high standards of storytelling Valiant has set for itself over the last decade.

That said, business is clearly about to pick up in a major way, and while the visual side of the comic is definitely in safe hands, I really hope Rahal is able to stamp more of his unique personality on the series as it continues, otherwise this could end up being a missed opportunity of the highest order.

Rating: 3/5.

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ceejThe writer of this piece was: Craig Neilson-Adams (aka Ceej)
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