By Matt Kindt, Marc Laming, Ulises Arreola
Ninjak #23 kicks off a major new story arc, “The Seven Blades of Master Darque”. High action and imaginative scenarios make this a fun read.
Much of the story is setup, but the pacing and reveals keep it from feeling like a prologue. As the title suggests, this arc features the return of characters from early in the Ninjak title. All villainous, all trained by the undead monk, and all captured by Ninjak – all except for Roku.
The last time we saw Roku, she was kicking Ninjak off of a temple. Now she’s begun her campaign against the man she blames for her transformation, Master Darque. Her plan? To attack him with his own tools, the Shadow Seven. But first she’s got to get the gang back together.
Here is where writer Matt Kindt’s talent for world-building shines. The Valiant universe is similar to our own world, but to paraphrase Shakespeare, “there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” Kindt creates an imaginative gauntlet, giving it the same attention to detail as his multi-layered world in Rai. There’s some big surprises in store for fans. It’s not just worlds that are being built. The Shadow Seven become more than their bizarre talents. Roku cuts through their mystique like a knife through butter, revealing intrinsic personality details and motivations. This ultimately humanizes them, but it also allows us to see how they can be exploited. There are a few uncomfortable scenes as we learn what has become of these characters since their last appearance, but it adds to the plausibility of their teaming up. Imagine Kill Bill as if the team of assassins were working with rather than against Elle. The eccentricity of thought and lethal potential of the Shadow Seven is similar in effect. This is not the crew you want to see roll up to your doorstep.
Most importantly, there’s confirmation of a plot detail that has been the subject of speculation. There will be consequences, and it will be interesting to see if these ramifications extend beyond the scope of the immediate story.
The art team of Marc Laming and Ulises Arreola bring Kindt’s tale to life. This is Laming’s first time illustrating for Ninjak. His style is unique but consistent with the look developed over previous arcs. Laming’s lines are clean and thin, giving the art a crisp look. He details each part of a scene, never skimping on background details. The storytelling is straightforward and easy to read, in part due to the traditional panel layout. It flows like a movie. Each panel serves as a camera shot, and the changes in perspective reinforce that feeling and add to the drama. Arreola’s colors are vivid. Most of the story focuses on Roku, and as such, the dominant color is red, but this is a Ninjak story. Arreola reinforces that idea by subtly peppering purple throughout the scenes. Overall, this is an attractive and effective book.
Ninjak #23 is a thrill ride through a gauntlet of challenges both physical and psychological. Surprises and action abound along with stronger character definition. “The Seven Blades of Master Darque” is promising to be one of the biggest and baddest Ninjak arcs yet.