By Matt Kindt, Khari Evans, Andres Guinaldo, Ulises Arreola and Chris Sotomayor
Everything old is new again in Ninjak #18. Entitled “The Fist and The Steel Part 1,” this new arc leapfrogs into the future where we find an aged Ninjak embroiled in a mission with the Eternal Warrior. The story subtly examines the companionship between Ninjak and Gilad while stirring up echoes from the past in the form of a new threat.
New arcs generally make for easier jumping on points, and this one even more so given the time period. It is obvious that much has happened in the preceding decades, but this is where the playing field is leveled – neither established fans nor new readers are privy to any of these details, making the character a bit of the unknown.
Don’t let the future setting fool you into thinking this is a throwaway piece. The story is relevant to recent events and ties nicely into multiple arcs from the last year. Established fans will understand the references, but new fans won’t be floundering. Writer Matt Kindt provides backstory where it is necessary, smoothing over any reader knowledge gaps.
The Ninjak title traditionally consists of the main story followed by a short supporting backstory called “The Lost Files.” This device served the plot by telling a relevant part of Ninjak’s history parallel to the current story. Initially “The Lost Files” took place early in Ninjak’s career. This time out, since the main story occurs decades into the future, “The Lost Files” happens “now,” shortly after the end of the last arc. Ninjak has lost everything: his status, money, home, and his family. He’s angry and isolated. There are some noteworthy revelations which seem to indicate change will be coming to Ninjak.
The contrast between the man Ninjak is in “The Lost Files” and the main story is tangible. We’re thrust into a collaborative mission with Eternal Warrior, and it’s obvious that Ninjak is pleased to be a part of it. The mission seems straightforward, but our heroes soon discover a larger mystery that will have fans speculating.
One of the best features of the story is the banter between Ninjak and the Eternal Warrior. Kindt uses humor effectively here, bringing some levity to an otherwise serious situation. Equal parts friendly and disparaging, their verbal sparring sounds and feels natural. It gives the book a personal feel. They obviously respect each other despite their contrary approaches. If the arc title is any indication, we will witness more of how and why they relate to each other. Under Kindt’s guidance, Eternal Warrior is at his most relatable. Even Ninjak, who is frequently a derogative arse, is less abrasive than usual, making this “Old Man Ninjak” and his biting humor much more likable.
Artist Khari Evans illustrates the main story. He does a fine job of portraying Ninjak as an older man, giving his face the cragginess and furrows earned through age and battle. Merely “graying up” a character is not enough to believable age a character. Evans pays close attention to the details, making sure the face, eye lines, neck, and hands reflect age. His character acting is perfect. The tilt of a head, the pose of hands laid upon a lap, the emotion in the eyes are all examples of the subtle ways in which he tells the story.
Andres Guinaldo pencils and inks “The Lost Files” segment of the book. His style is different from Evans’, making it simple to differentiate the stories and shift emotions. His work is clean and easy to read in both character emotions and in panel flow. One page which uses an unusual layout to portray an important moment between characters works particularly well, giving the moment poignancy.
Coloring was done by Ulises Arreola and Chris Sotomayor. There’s not much more that can be said other than it is beautiful. The outdoor scenes in particular glow, and the colors are vibrant. It makes you imagine you are within the Aurora Borealis.
Ninjak #18 is a solid story that builds bridges between the past and the future foretold in Book of Death. Offering both an interesting mystery and a burgeoning camaraderie, Ninjak #18 should absolutely be on your pull list.