“The foibles of politics and the march of time can turn friends into enemies just as easily as the wind changes… …yesterday’s ally becomes today’s opposition. Enemies change along with the times, and the flow of the ages… …so then what is an enemy? Is there such thing as an absolute timeless enemy? There is no such thing and never has been… …and the reason is that our enemies are human beings like us. They can only be our enemies in relative terms.”
― The Boss, Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater
Ninja-K is phenomenal. It is a smart, politically multi-layered, and emotionally complex story that reads quite well and pulls the reader in deeper with each issue. Writer Christos Gage (Bloodshot and H.A.R.D. Corps: H.A.R.D. Corps #0, G.I. Joe, and Ninja-K) knocks it out of the park with a compelling story where the traditional and simple narrative of “hero vs villain” is anything but traditional or simple. Dialog, backstory, and current events make sense, and it is easy to understand each character’s own intrinsic motivations. Similar to the words by former CIA Clandestine Service Officer Amaryllis Fox (which is likely not her real name; it is simply too 007 perfect…), “everyone believes they are the good guy.” This truth is one that, when understood, leads to great story writing and characters. Gage understands completely, and the result of this is evident in Ninja-K.
“If I’ve learned one lesson from my time with the CIA, it is this: Everybody believes they are the good guy…”
―Amaryllis Fox, Former CIA officer
This story is depicted by in three parts and art teams. The main portion of the story is drawn by Tomas Giorello (X-O Manowar (2017) and 4001 A.D.: War Mother) and colored by Diego Rodriguez with flashback sequences by artist Roberto De La Torre (Shadowman) and Rodriguez. As was the case with Ninja-K #1 and Ninja-K #2, a backup story featuring artwork by Ariel Olivetti is included at the end of the issue.
Giorello and Rodriguez are a fantastic team. Working together on X-O Manowar (2017) issues #1 through #3, they created some of the absolute finest work and most visually stunning pages of 2017. The series itself won All-Comic’s “Best of 2017: Best Ongoing Series“, while Giorello himself won “Best of 2017: Best Interior Artist” for his work on X-O Manowar (2017) and Ninja-K. Giorello’s pencils on this issue are every bit as incredible as that which has earned him such honors in the past. His characters are consistent from page to page, featuring a high degree of detail, movement, and emotion while remaining smooth and well-defined. As expected, Giorello creates depth, texture, and shadows through hatching and cross-hatching techniques. Backgrounds are almost non-existent in the main story; the center of focus is the ninja battle with Gage’s incredible dialog as the key to drawing reader attention. Rodriguez brings each panel and page to life, and creates the backdrop for each with textured, neutral colors to fill the space while taking nothing away from the center of focus.
De La Torre’s flashback sequences feature a significantly higher degree of contrast and a grittier artistic approach. Character placement and proportion are consistent and quality, while backgrounds continue to appear heavily photo referenced (sort of like when you take a picture on your smartphone and apply a comic book filter).
The backup story, painted by Olivetti, is as artistically brilliant as ever. Similar to Giorello’s center of focus on the characters and dialog, Olivetti minimizes the background and setting to a texture colored backdrop for the action to take place. The quality of Olivetti can not be understated, as he has clearly mastered the ability to render lifelike characters and events with incredible skill and detail.
Ninja-K is is a masterfully written and visually stunning experience. Christos Gage and Tomas Giorello have taken one of the best titles Valiant Entertainment has to offer, and have taken this title to the next level of greatness! This is a series that should not be missed.