Written by Matt Kindt
Art by Doug Braithwaite and Juan Jose Ryp
Colors by Brian Reber and Ulises Arreola
Ninjak has been a standout series for Valiant since its first issue and if you’ve been following the latest arc, “Operation: Deadside,” you’ll know that this arc reintroduces Shadowman, last seen in the pages of Shadowman: End Times, into the Valiant Universe as the dubiously villainous Magpie.
Like the other Valiant heavy-hitter titles such as X-O Manowar and Bloodshot Reborn, Ninjak has always been about the long tale; an important thread running throughout each of its issues that evolves as each new arc begins. What has really set this book apart is Matt Kindt’s ability to interweave two seemingly disparate storylines within each issue running alongside the main part of the book, and the backup “Lost Files” tales at the end of the issue. With each new issue, readers have seen a new layer added onto the overall story and it has been a treat to experience, but especially now with the reintroduction of Shadowman, we’re seeing a whole new level of story which would have been difficult to decipher early on in the book. If you’ve been following this book since issue #1, you are in for a treat with the reveals in this issue’s main and backup story (no spoilers here). The interweaving stories should come together at the close of this arc so readers still have a couple of months to jump on this incredible title.
The issue begins with the story of Ninjak and Punk Mambo on an island somewhere in the Deadside and introduces a couple of interesting new characters such as the sicofantoms and the primal adepts. Who or what these characters are is irrelevant for the purposes of this review, but their introduction gives fans of the Valiant Universe and much more importantly, story-starved fans of Shadowman, a fresh new look at what could very well become a very fleshed out and in-depth expansion of the mythology of the Deadside and the magical side of the Valiant Universe. We get a glimpse of what happened during Punk Mambo’s first mission to the Deadside for MI-6 as mentioned in the previous issue, and see some nice character development to now just the Magpie, previously known as Shadowman, but for his minion, Ember, the hammer wielding character from issue #10. If you’ve been wondering where Matt Kindt has been planning on taking this story all along, this issue will see some major reveals.
Unlike most books which have backup stories, the “Lost Files” in Ninjak issues are key to understanding the whole of the story and this issue’s installment is no exception. In fact, it may very well be one of the most important of the series so far giving readers a look at not just the Magpie’s purpose and mission, but his relationship with the aforementioned Ember.
High praises to Matt Kindt for revamping not just Ninjak, but the entire magical aspect of the Valiant Universe within just two issues, but much credit goes to the art team as well.
The main story features art by long-time Valiant artist Doug Braithwaite with colors by Brian Reber, the team behind the future looks at the Valiant u=Universe in the recent Book of Death miniseries, while the backup features art by relative Valiant newcomer Juan Jose Ryp, with colors by Ulises Arreola. One thing that Valiant always does really well is finding the right artistic talent to match to the feel of a story, so while the artist may change between arcs, they always feel at home in a book based on their style alone. This book really is a sight to behold and the coloring team goes a long way to making that happen.
All in all, Ninjak #11 is a terrific issue that manages to elevate not just this series to a whole new level, but an often overlooked side of the universe. Fans have been clamoring for more of the magical side of Valiant ever since the first Death Defying Doctor Mirage miniseries, and this is an issue that truly delivers.