Review: Ninjak Vs The Valiant Universe #1
“Colin King is Ninjak, MI-6’s deadliest intelligence operative and weapons expert. When the ruthless assassin Roku exploits his greatest weakness, Ninjak will be forced to betray his closest allies. Now, on the run, he must face off against the most powerful heroes known to man for a high-octane, take no prisoners trial by fire more perilous and more unpredictable than any he’s faced before. In 2018, the world’s most dangerous super-spy goes to war with the Valiant Universe…”
The first thing you should be aware of when opening this comic is that it has nothing to do with Valiant’s shared universe the company has been publishing comics in since 2012, and everything to do with the Bat In The Sun produced digital-first live action series that is coming to a screen near you eventually (the project has been hit with delay after delay, possibly to do with something behind the scenes in a legal and/or character rights type situation, but the rumours and speculation are that we’ll see a general release soon). Yes, ladies and gentlemen, Ninjak Vs The Valiant Universe is a tie-in comic to the upcoming webseries, and it feels like it.
Written by Eliot Rahal, the art is provided by Joe Bennett with Belardino Brabo, who are joined by colourist Ulises Arreola – who continues to provide a vibrant life to artwork that struggles between finding its own voice and maintaining a likeness to the actors in the upcoming webseries, much like the comic itself. The art is at least mostly solid, other than a few panels that feel as though they had less time spent upon them than others (it’s entirely possible that I’m unfairly comparing this to Ninja-K‘s art, which is never going to end well for this comic), but for the most it does it’s job and gets you from point A to point B.
Ninjak Vs has a pace to it that mimics its title character, with the action and plot points coming at you like a shuriken in the dark. Rahal wastes no time in getting the plot going, which ultimately is little more than an excuse to set up a fight between Ninjak and everybody else in the next few issues.
There are several things going against this comic, one of the more notable ones is that with this series, Valiant have stated that it takes places out of the typical continuity of the main Valiant universe which should, in theory, allow Rahal to weave a compelling story about Ninjak without any worry toward the consequences of the conclusion. Unfortunately he’s forced into creating some inane reasons for Ninjak to betray everything and everyone in order to obtain something, and so the comic never feels like a natural read, instead we’re left with a situation where we know what’s going to happen, and the “why” feels more like an after thought; honestly, had the intro just said “Ninjak has to fight the Valiant Universe” I’d have been happier. Possibly because it is a tie-in, companion piece and/or adaptation of a live action adaptation and has to follow the pacing of said story. On top of that there’s the obvious comparisons to the excellent Ninja-K that Valiant launched in November – and unfortunately, Ninjak Vs doesn’t come off looking too favourably in that comparison.
Ninjak Vs The Valiant Universe #1 is part of an ambitious project that crosses multiple different media, and perhaps should be taken as such – knowing that there would have been a clear direction for Rahal (because frankly he’s capable of a much higher standard than is on display here), and to a lesser extent Bennett and Brabo, to follow editorially does provide a bit of leeway when judging the issue – but not much. Without an accompanying live action series, one must judge this issue on face value; and on face value, this isn’t the finest example of what Valiant, or the individuals who have created this comic, can produce, and it’s a struggle to honestly recommend this issue to you to face value.
If you want to read a great comic starring Ninjak, then you should look at Ninja-K. If you want to read a story about one Valiant character facing off against Unity, then pick up the first two issues of Book of Death. Both these comics do what Ninjak Vs tries to do, only they succeed.
Not every book from Valiant is a winner, and this is one of the rare misses.
Story: Eliot Rahal Art: Joe Bennett with Belardino Brabo Colourist: Ulises Arreola
Story: 5.0 Art: 7.5 Overall: 6.5 Recommendation: Pass
Valiant provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review