Author Archives: Alex K Cossa

Mini Reviews and Recommendations For The Week Ending 7/11

Sometimes, the staff at Graphic Policy read more comics than we’re able to get reviewed. When that happens you’ll see a weekly feature compiling short reviews from the staff of the comics, or graphic novels, we just didn’t get a chance to write a full review for. Given the lack of new comics, expect this weekly update to begin featuring comics that we think you’ll enjoy while you can’t get anything new to read – only new to you.

These are Graphic Policy’s Mini Reviews and Recommendations.


Logan

X-Force #10 (Marvel) – Benjamin Percy and Joshua Cassara’s telefloronic/killer plant people arc wraps up in an ooze of body horror and horniness in X-Force #10. Cassara and eGuru-FX’s visuals carry the action bits while Percy sinks his teeth into the moral quandaries of X-Force in a conversation between Beast and Jean Grey. This is nicely coda’d by Wolverine and Jean Grey chatting in a hot tub about the team’s status quo with side of polyamory and bisexuality that’s in that grey area between text and subtext. She is fully in the camp of not giving a shit about humanity as long as mutants are united and working towards the greater good, and her actions in the field (Majestically portrayed by Cassara) show that she’s better than the calculator in the chair, Beast. This is issue is full of goodies and gives each member of the ensemble cast a memorable moment of humor, action, or pathos from Sage showing up with a bunch of pouches for her field-work to Quentin Quire facing the abyss and for once, being left with nothing to say. This is truly an epic return for the series after about a 4 month hiatus. Overall: 8.8 Verdict: Buy

Money Shot #6 (Vault) – Sarah Beattie, Tim Seeley, and Rebekah Isaacs’ saga of scientists doing intergalactic, extraterrestrial research and funding it by creating intergalactic, extraterrestrial porn takes a bit of a pause in Money Shot #6. Beattie, Seeley, and Isaacs juxtapose the tragic love story of two aliens in a Klingon-esque society where battle is constant and what determines who gets to have sex for reproduction purposes with some slice of life stories featuring protagonists Ocampo, Wander, and Steinberg in a kind of bisexual love triangle. For the love story, Beattie and Seeley’s writing is downright noble compared to their usual double entendres and sexy science quips. It’s also some of the best art from Isaacs and colorist Kurt Michael Russell, who turn a buckets of blood and space ooze Geof Darrow joint into a touching love story. Isaacs’ skill with expressive faces come in handy later as Ocampo has come down with something and spends literally an entire night Googling STI symptoms and alien planets for them to explore/film porn on. There’s a quiet tragedy in Ocampo’s relentless search for a narrative while one is unfolding light years away. Money Shot #6 is a tone poem for this series, which isn’t just sex jokes and Star Trek riffs, but about the emotional bonds between people. Overall: 8.6 Verdict: Buy

Adventureman #2 (Image) – Less overwhelming than the previous issue, Matt Fraction and the Dodsons masterfully merge portal fantasy and pulp fiction in Adventureman #2. Armed with a mysterious missing book in the Adventureman series, single mom and ex-cop Claire Connell maneuvers a side of New York she’s never seen before even though she’s a lifelong resident. The Dodsons craft gorgeous Art Deco architectural settings and use double page spreads to give a real zest to the sequences where Claire is dodging robots at Adventure Inc’s not-so-fictional headquarters. This vibrance extends to the scenes in the “real world” where they don’t skimp on Claire’s son Tommy awkwardly trying to help his mom navigate by texting in class, or a souffle date with her sisters gone wrong. Each page is packed with personality and retro cool as fact and fiction collide, and it’s awesome to see a badass single mom be a hero in a genre that’s all lantern jawed men and femme fatales. I’m starting to really enjoy this comic. Overall: 8.0 Verdict: Buy

Brett

Detective Comics #1023 (DC Comics) – A lead up to “Joker War” the comic features either Joker awakening Owls to take on Batman and Batman searching for Two-Face. It’s well into the series arc and transitioning what’s to come. It’s definitely not a starting point for those interested in “Joker War” and it’s a bit of a headscratcher due to where the main Batman series is. It’s probably fine as part of the arc but as a single issue it lacks a bit. Overall Rating: 7.0 Verdict: Read

Young Justice #16 (DC Comics) – What’s up with Bart Allen? We find out the truth here and it’s a pretty intriguing concept and story. The anticipation makes it a bit of a letdown but big picture it sets things up nicely. There’s some real emotion to the comic and you feel where Bart is coming from. If you want to know where the series is going, this is an issue to check out. Overall Rating: 7.75 Verdict: Buy


Well, there you have it, folks. The reviews we didn’t quite get a chance to write. See you next week!

Please note that with some of the above comics, Graphic Policy was provided FREE copies for review. Where we purchased the comics, you’ll see an asterisk (*). If you don’t see that, you can infer the comic was a review copy. In cases where we were provided a review copy and we also purchased the comic you’ll see two asterisks (**).

Those Two Geeks Episode Seventy Two: Old News And Rumors

Alex and Joe intend to talk about the oddly still relevant news regarding Michael Keaton playing Batman again and how the X-Men could enter the MCU. There is an award cut around 43 minutes with a bit of sound because the recording suddenly stopped. Yay technology.

As always, Alex and Joe can be found on twitter respectively @karcossa and @jcb_smark if you feel the need to tell them they’re wrong individually, or @those2geeks if you want to yell at them together on twitter, or by email at ItsThose2Geeks@gmail.com.

Underrated: Black Beetle: No Way Out

This is a column that focuses on something or some things from the comic book sphere of influence that may not get the credit and recognition it deserves. Whether that’s a list of comic book movies, ongoing comics, or a set of stories featuring a certain character. The columns may take the form of a bullet-pointed list, or a slightly longer thinkpiece – there’s really no formula for this other than whether the things being covered are Underrated in some way. This week:  Black Beetle: No Way Out


Another week, and yet another case of “Alex bought something for Underrated without knowing anything about it beforehand.” This week we’re looking at the first volume of Francisco Francavilla‘s Black Beetle: No Way Outanother book that I found at a thrift store for an absolute bargain price. Actually, bargain is understating things. I paid $1 for this book (technically $1.25, but at but 4 get 1 free it works out to a dollar). Which is an absolute steal of a deal for a hardcover trade.

Black Beetle: No Way Out is published by  Dark Horse, written and drawn by Francavilla, and takes the form of a modern reinterpretation of the old pulp novels of the 30’s and 40’s, with all the semi futuristic-steampunk technology and sleek lines that includes.

This throwback feeling permeates the entire graphic novel, genuinely allowing it to read as a pulp novel from a bygone era – but one with the tonal sensitivities of today. It’s within this area that Francavilla tells the story of a vigilante who is equal parts the Shadow, the Spider and the Black Bat – and though comparisons to Batman will be made, the only similarity there is that Batman is more prevalent in the cultural awareness of our medium than the other three characters previously mentioned. I’m not saying the comparisons are unfair, but that the similarities are more in line with the characters Batman took inspiration from rather than Bruce Wayne himself.

The story, then, that is told within No Way Out is very reflective of those pulp novels, especially the original covers that are used as story breaks between the individual issues. Francavilla’s artistic approach is very evocative of the art styles of the time – simple colours, thick lines and a sense of foreboding. With Francavilla handling both the writing and the art duties in the book, we’re given a tour-de-force of a creative offering as he delivers an incredible experience.

And that, ultimately, is why I loved this book so much. It’s an incredibly fun pulp story, a classic hero romp with a hero who in’t shy about using his guns. Of course that does leave a little room for folks to be concerned about a lack of substance in the plot, but I think for the most part that is a concern that can be put aside by the artistic offering.

This is a book that’s absolutely worth a read.

Yes, I only paid $1 for it, and yes, I only bought it because it was in a thrit store, but I am so glad that I did. Black Beetle: No Way Out is easily the best thing I have read all week – including the four other books I picked up – and I am frankly astounded that I had never read this before. I’m equally as astounded that I’d never even heard of the book before.  Consequently, this is a book I don’t see getting the love it deserves – that’s why the book is Underrated.


Join us next week when we look at something else that is, for whatever reason, Underrated.

Review: Quantum and Woody #4

QUANTUM & WOODY #4

Home Alone, the boys are left to defend their lair against would-be bandits! What is Woody’s dark secret? The truth is finally revealed in Quantum and Woody #4!

The finale to the four-part miniseries finds writer Christopher Hastings, artist Ryan Browne, and color artist Ruth Redmond coming together one more time (though hopefully not for the final time) for a comic I have waited nearly three months to read. Was it worth the wait? Was I able to just pick it up and enjoy it without refreshing myself by reading the first three again?

Two kill two birds with one stone, the answer is yes.

While not everybody will want to just pick the book up and dive in after three months, the way the Hastings has been crafting the story over three almost standalone issues means that while there are some elements that cross the four issues, the specific events don’t need to have been memorized to enjoy Quantum and Woody #4 (though if you do want a refresher, there’s no reason not to go back and read the other three).

Hastings has once again packed a full story, start middle and end, into a single comic, though with the finale he also wraps up the threads he had left over the course of the previous three issues. It is in many ways a bitter sweet comic, because as far as we currently know, there aren’t any plans to bring Hastings back to Quantum and Woody, but he ends his story on a high note without leaving any real loose ends dangling – but you’ll be wanting more from him and the creative team by them time you turn the final page.

Browne’s art has been perfectly suited to the chaos that has been this series, and both he and Redmond shine in the final issue. There’s often a lot occurring on every page, but the comic never loses its ability to tell a coherent visual story. The art is bright, bold, absolutely insane, and I love it. There’s a lot going on in almost every page, but you’re never lost; this is a book that you’re going to want to take your time reading, or read it a second time so that you can really appreciate the talent on display here.

I’ve never really been the biggest Quantum and Woody fan, but Hastings, Brown, Redmond, and letterer Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou have delivered one of my favourite series this year. This is a nigh-on perfect comic book in its own right, but when you take it as the final part of a four-part miniseries, then it becomes an absolute must-read book.

If every comic that I read after Diamond started delivering again was half as good as this, I’d be happy.

Story: Christopher Hastings Art: Ryan Browne
Colors: Ruth Redmond Letters: Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou

Story: 9.6 Art: 9.6 Overall: 9.6 Recommendation: Buy

Valiant provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review


Purchase: comiXologyKindleZeus Comics

Marc Laming talks about Bloodshot and How it Differs from His Previous Work

Bloodshot #7 Fully Loaded Edition

Bloodshot #7 kicks off an action-packed story that basically unleashes hell on Earth as Bloodshot must hunt down monsters, living weapons, and other threats after they’re set loose from a top-secret facility. Written by Tim Seeley, Bloodshot #7 features pencils and inks by Marc Laming and he’ll provide the same for Bloodshot #9, the final chapter of the storyline. A new “Fully Loaded Edition” is on sale August 12 and features 8 bonus pages of content including an interview with co-creator Kevin VanHook.

Marc Laming is a British born artist who has worked on a plethora of characters ranging from Judge Dredd to the Incredible Hulk over a career spanning three decades.

We got a chance to ask Marc a few questions via email about his work on Bloodshot #7 and #9.

Graphic Policy: Hi Marc! How’s tricks?

Marc Laming: Good thank you, I’m keeping good and busy during these difficult times.

GP: With Bloodshot, you’re both pencilling and inking the book. Do you approach the art differently when doing both verses when just penciling?

ML: I haven’t just pencilled a book since the early 2000s when I was working for DC/Vertigo. Since then the market has tended to prefer hiring artists that are self-contained units and I had to learn really quickly to ink my own work so I was happy with the results.

GP: You’ve drawn a large variety of characters over your career. How does drawing Bloodshot differ from others you’ve drawn?

ML: Bloodshot gives you the opportunity to draw so many different things! It covers the obvious action and adventure but there are sci-fi elements across all of the Valiant universe that make it loads of fun and Bloodshot being a very different kind of hero allows for quiet more personal moments too.

GP: Can you take us through your process when you take on a new character?

ML: The writer’s script and the story’s requirements come first and then it is a question of deciding if they are larger than life or something more real world based. Then it is just a question of doing some research based on the script and starting to draw character sheets in my sketch books and on the Cintiq until we are all happy with the look of the new character.

GP: We’ve seen with other artists and publishers that a film can influence the look of a character or comic. Has that factored in at all?

ML: It depends on the project but on Bloodshot I was taking much more inspiration from the incredible work done on the series by artists such as Lewis Larosa, Brett Booth, Paolo Rivera and Dougie Braithwaite than I did on the movie spectacular as it is. 

GP: With Bloodshot #7, you were able to add a lot of nuance to an action packed story by way of Bloodshot and Eidolin’s expressions and body language. I might have forgotten my question… Oh – when it comes to the visual storytelling, do you prefer the subtle moments or the big bombastic ones? 

ML: I like them both but those quiet more tender moments really allow you to put all the emphasis on character and acting in the drawing.

GP: When it comes to drawing locations you may or may not have visited, do you use a lot of visual reference or just kinda wing it?

ML: I use probably much more reference than I really need – In issue nine for example all the buildings and streets in the Russian city are real and you could visit them if you went there. The same of course is true of the London locations including the sewers which were fully researched too!

GP: You’ve worked on Ninjak (with Eternal Warrior) and Archer & Armstrong in the past; what other Valiant character would you like to get your hands on?

ML: I’d love to do a historical Eternal Warrior story and I love the characters from Divinity so any of those would be great to work on in future, oh and Livewire.

GP: What have you got in store for us in the near future after Bloodshot #9? Anything that you can tell us?

ML: I’m currently working on a large graphic novel but that’s all I can say about that right now, but I’m sure I will be shouting about it on my social media soon.

GP: Thank you very much for your time!

Check out an early look at Bloodshot #9!

Mini Reviews and Recommendations For The Week Ending 7/4

Sometimes, the staff at Graphic Policy read more comics than we’re able to get reviewed. When that happens you’ll see a weekly feature compiling short reviews from the staff of the comics, or graphic novels, we just didn’t get a chance to write a full review for. Given the lack of new comics, expect this weekly update to begin featuring comics that we think you’ll enjoy while you can’t get anything new to read – only new to you.

These are Graphic Policy’s Mini Reviews and Recommendations.


Joe Hesh

Batman The Adventures Continue #7 (DC Digital) Now this is more like it! After the last few snoozefest issues finally we have something new. Really love how Azrael is introduced as an ally rather than a foe. His Azrael non Batman design rocks too. It is very reminiscent of the Phantasm design which I dig a lot. Also love the mock title cards that are homage to the original Batman The Animated Series. That is such a nice touch. Ty Templeton does such a great job keeping the characters on model and this issue was good to just have Bruce and Alfred at work without being bogged down by the rest of the fam. Seeing Catwoman show up too was such a joy. The animated series always seemed to get the Batman/Catwoman relationship right. Lot happened in this issue and we still have Jason Todd waiting in the wings. I am looking forward to what’s next. I got that old Bat feeling back! Mr. Dini and Mr. Burnett, don’t let me down! Score: 9 Verdict: Buy

Logan

The Boys: Dear Becky #2 (Dynamite) – The Boys: Dear Becky #2 is a marked improvement from the first issue with Garth Ennis and Russ Braun with silly dialogue galore and darkly, hilarious parodies of Thor and the Thunderbolts. However, they go deeper than these broad satires of megacorporations, superheroes as IP, and British tabloids and look at the addiction to violence that Butcher experiences in the past and Hughie does in the present day. These are men who have found good women, but maybe don’t deserve them with both Annie and Becky staying off-panel. Braun’s art in this issue really caught my eye as he goes from Butcher torturing a Thor-expy in a crematorium burner to using somber lighting and sober facial expressions for Hughie and Butcher to express their feelings. The comic The Boys just might work in 2020… Overall: 8 Verdict: Buy


Well, there you have it, folks. The reviews we didn’t quite get a chance to write. See you next week!

Please note that with some of the above comics, Graphic Policy was provided FREE copies for review. Where we purchased the comics, you’ll see an asterisk (*). If you don’t see that, you can infer the comic was a review copy. In cases where we were provided a review copy and we also purchased the comic you’ll see two asterisks (**).

Mini Reviews and Recommendations For The Week Ending 6/27

Sometimes, the staff at Graphic Policy read more comics than we’re able to get reviewed. When that happens you’ll see a weekly feature compiling short reviews from the staff of the comics, or graphic novels, we just didn’t get a chance to write a full review for. Given the lack of new comics, expect this weekly update to begin featuring comics that we think you’ll enjoy while you can’t get anything new to read – only new to you.

These are Graphic Policy’s Mini Reviews and Recommendations.


Logan

Die #11 (Image)– Kieron Gillen and Stephanie Hans’ Die is back with the first rumblings of an epic war between factions and ensemble drama of the split party sandwiched between. Ash and Izzy have taken on ruling roles in the world of the game, but the crown lies uneasy while the other characters struggle to come up with ways to get them to leave the game. Hans has a gift for big fantasy landscapes to go with the intense conversations with designs and costumes that define character. The conversation between Ash and creator-turned antagonist-turned-prisoner Sol is both powerful and mundane, and it’s about a popular band from the 90s. Die #11 is at its best when the lives and motivations from the cast’s “real world” existence seeps in, and Gillen wisely uses this connection to raise the stakes and differentiate the build up in this issue from yet another fantasy war book. Overall: 8.1 Verdict: Buy

Once and Future #8 (BOOM!)– Kieron Gillen opens Once and Future #8 with one of the funniest lines of the series as our protagonist Duncan’s grandmother Bridgette, who told him that all the Arthurian legend cycles are real, is skeptical about the existence of Beowulf. Boy, is she wrong, and artist Dan Mora gives the Geat hero an aggressive physicality to go with Tamra Bonvillain’s flame colors and Gillen’s poetic dialogue. As far as antagonists go, he’s a shot in the arm while Merlin plays the string pulling, behind the scenes role. However, Once and Future isn’t all action and cool split screen panels as Duncan and Bridgette struggle to repair the relationship post-ceremonial wounding, but that gets put on hold for Beowulf. Overall: 8.4 Verdict: Buy

Wicked Things #2 (BOOM!) In the hilarious, fast-paced, Wicked Things #2, John Allison and Max Sarin focus on teen detective Lottie Grote trying to maneuver the British legal/penal system and prove her innocence. It doesn’t go too well (Her British equivalent of a public defender isn’t very helpful), and this leads to a new normal for her and the book. Allison does a quick and brilliant bit of world-building by using Lottie’s appearances as a teen detective in Scary Go-Round to inform how the police react to her character in Wicked Things, and it adds to Lottie’s legend. You really want her to solve this case. As usual, Sarin’s art is a delight, and Lottie’s reaction to prison food and Claire’s disdain for the other teen detectives that were up for Lottie’s reward must be seen to believed. Sarin’s surreal side also comes out when Lottie’s kind mother and angry older sister visit her; nothing like a classic storm cloud over one’s head. Overall: 8.9 Verdict: Buy


Well, there you have it, folks. The reviews we didn’t quite get a chance to write. See you next week!

Please note that with some of the above comics, Graphic Policy was provided FREE copies for review. Where we purchased the comics, you’ll see an asterisk (*). If you don’t see that, you can infer the comic was a review copy. In cases where we were provided a review copy and we also purchased the comic you’ll see two asterisks (**).

Those Two Geeks Episode Seventy One: eBay, Toys and a Failed Topic

Alex and Joe intend to talk about indie comics, but get severely distracted by talking about toys.

As always, Alex and Joe can be found on twitter respectively @karcossa and @jcb_smark if you feel the need to tell them they’re wrong individually, or @those2geeks if you want to yell at them together on twitter, or by email at ItsThose2Geeks@gmail.com.

Valiant Hero Of The Week: Ninjak

Every Monday for the next few weeks, Valiant Entertainment is running a poll on Twitter to provide fans with some escapism while new comics are in short supply. The poll allows Valiant fans the opportunity to select the “Hero Of The Week” from four choices. That week’s hero will then be the focus of free pdfs featuring the character, videos from Valiant staff, giveaways, and more. This week, the poll featured Ninjak, Rai, Doctor Tomorrow and Livewire.

Valiant Hero of the Week

But this week’s winner (as you’ve probably guessed) was…

Ninjak

Who is he? A freelance mercenary frequently contracted by the British government. Colin King is a super wealthy man who has been trained in the ninja arts, possesses an incredible intelligence and affinity for technology. His parents died when he was young, he was raised by their butler, and it’s around this point that the Batman similarities end. Colin King’s parents were spies for the British government’s MI-6 who would eventually defect to the Soviet Union, leaving him in the custody of their Russian butler Alain who may or may not have been his biological father but was definitely an ex-KGB agent in hiding. Alain

What should you read?

X-O Manowar: Enter Ninjak

X-O Manowar has returned to Earth — and now the world’s most lethal intelligence agent has a new target. Hired by members of The Vine hidden deep within Earth’s governments, Ninjak has been sent to bring back the Manowar armor at any cost. But what happens when the world’s foremost weapons specialist engages the universe’s most powerful weapon head on? And even if Ninjak can defeat the armor’s defenses, does he stand a chance against the savage warrior that controls it? It’s raw power versus stealth and cunning in the second thrilling volume of X-O Manowar — and the Valiant Universe will never be the same again.


The introduction of Ninjak to the modern Valiant universe was in the second arc of X-O Manowar (a series worth reading in and of itself). If you want to see how effective Ninjak can be against somebody who on paper far outclasses him, then this is the book for you; yes, it does initially fall into the Superhero Team Up cliche, but this is one I over look because as Ninjak’s first appearance in the modern Valiant era, it was possible that his alignment may have shifted a little. I read this long after I had discovered who Ninjak was, but still thoroughly enjoyed the story nonetheless.

The only danger with reading this book is that you’ll probably want to jump into the world of X-O Manowar too, but don’t worry if that’s the case. It’s a world that’s well worth getting lost in.

Purchase: comiXologyAmazonKindle


Nnjak: Weaponeer

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is NINJAk-weaponeer.jpg

Every master spy…has to start somewhere.

Then: Meet inexperienced MI-6 recruit Colin King on his first mission in the field as he learns the basics of spycraft and counterintelligence, and develops a volatile relationship with his first handler.

Now: Colin King is Ninjak, the world’s foremost intelligence operative, weapons expert, and master assassin. And he’s hunting the Shadow Seven — a secret cabal of shinobi masters with mysterious ties to his training and tragic past.


This collection covers the first five issues of Ninjak’s Valiant Entertainment relaunch, and is written by Matt Kindt and features Clay Mann, Butch Guice, and Juan Jose Ryp‘s artistic talents. This is where you’ll want to go for your introduction to the character, despite his first appearance coming in an issue of X-O Manowar a couple of years prior. We’re (re)introduced to Colin King and discover how he became Ninjak in flashbacks that twin with the present as King hunts down the Shadow Seven. It’s a spy thriller in the vein of James Bond, but starring a character who is closer to Batman than most other agents.

Purchase: Amazon (Hardcover)Amazon (Paperback)KindlecomiXologyBookshopTFAW


Ninjak: The Siege Of King’s Castle

Colin King, the elite MI-6 intelligence operative codenamed Ninjak, has confronted his past. He’s survived the gauntlet of the Shadow Seven. He’s walked into the Deadside and returned a changed man. Now his greatest trial yet will come to pass as the ruthless assassin called Roku returns to lay siege to Ninjak’s present and future by destroying his life from the inside out – and only the death of Colin King will stop her.


One of the best things about Ninjak and his mercenary life is that once you have a basic understanding of the character you realize that while his stories do follow a continuity you don’t have to read them in a linear fashion. This story follows Colin King as he loses everything and answers the question; who is he without his technology?

A classic stripping down of a character to his essence, this is Ninjak at his most resourceful – and consequently it’s one of my favourite tales.

Purchase:  comiXologyAmazonKindleBookshop


Ninjak K: The Ninja Files

For nearly a century, MI-6, the most elite branch of Britain’s clandestine intelligence service, has honed a ruthlessly effective, top-secret division – THE NINJA PROGRAMME – into one of its nation’s most finely wielded weapons.

Tasked as the first and last line of defense for queen and country, this small shadow army of agents and assassins has produced a succession of notable assets, including NINJA-A, the Queen’s silent weapon of World War I; NINJA-E, the globe-trotting secret agent that pulled the Cold War back from the brink of Armageddon; and, most recently, NINJA-K, aka Colin King, a brash but fearless instrument of lethality that has saved the world from madmen and terror at every turn. But now…an unknown enemy is hunting and killing members of THE NINJA PROGRAMME one by one – and NINJAK is next on the list.


The first volume of a series that dealt with Ninjak’s legacy as a member of MI-6’s Ninja Programme, this is a story that focuses less on Colin King and more on his predecessors, but it also means we get to see a lot of fantastic art from Tomas Giorello as he explores the different eras that MI-6’s ninja’s have been operating.

Another story that you can easily read out of order, this also comes highly recommended from yours truly.

Purchase:  comiXologyAmazonKindleBookshop


It’s worth noting that you can get Deluxe Editions of many of these stories that collect what amounts to three trades in a hardcover. They are comparatively better valued, but present a higher initial cost (based on standard retail pricing not including sales and discounts). They’re my personal preference.


This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links and make a purchase, we’ll receive a percentage of the sale. Graphic Policy does purchase items from this site. Making purchases through these links helps support the site.

Underrated: Valiant Masters: Ninjak: Black Water

This is a column that focuses on something or some things from the comic book sphere of influence that may not get the credit and recognition it deserves. Whether that’s a list of comic book movies, ongoing comics, or a set of stories featuring a certain character. The columns may take the form of a bullet pointed list, or a slightly longer thinkpiece – there’s really no formula for this other than whether the things being covered are Underrated in some way. This week: Valiant Masters: Ninjak: Black Water.


Ever since I’ve started to collect Valiant comics, I’ve been picking up the hardcover deluxe editions here and there as a way to catch up in bulk on some of the series I’ve missed, and also because I just like the look of them. A while back I did a cost analysis as to whether it was worth buying the deluxe editions verses the softcover trades or single issue floppies at cover price; generally the savings were negligible depending on the size of the book (less than $5, I think) between the hardcovers and soft covers, but the difference between the hard covers and cover price floppies varied greatly depending on how many books were collected (and it didn’t factor in the cost of the floppies after they’ve been on the market for a while, as they can fluctuate higher or lower depending on different trends).

This is relevant only because the Valiant Masters hardcovers generally contain the first eight issues of the original Valiant series (either 1-8 or 0-7 depending on the stories within), which means that for $25 you end up paying about $3.25 a comic. Whether that’s a good price for the early Valiant books depends on which book you’re looking at; I’ve paid $20 for the first appearance of Rai, $6 for the first appearance of Ninjak and around $1 for others, so it’s largely a crap shoot, but for the most part the individual issues collected in the Valiant Masters are going to be cheaper than the hardcover itself depending on which one you’re looking at.

The point I’m making here is that while I’m talking about the hardcover today, in reality I’m really looking at the eight issues within the book (Ninjak #1-6, before giving us his origin with issues #0 and #00), and those you can probably find easier than the hardcover which may be out of print now. The floppies will likely be cheaper given how out of print Valiant hardcovers tend to sell for higher than cover price.

Perhaps my favourite aspect of these Masters editions is in comparing what I know about the characters from their 2012 relaunch and the versions that appeared in the 90’s. The Ninjak of the 90’s had his differences from the modern version; born to English parents as part of an experiment to grow enhanced humans, he grew up in Japan and learned the ways of the ninja from a temple he sought refuge in after his father was murdered. The rest, his technology and such, differ only in what was conceivable to the writers of the time.

Black Water has the titular ninja taking down an international conglomerate. It sounds fairly cliche now, but the story’s echoes of Batman and James Bond set it apart from the general run of the mill hero vs corporation stories. The story is only the first two issues of the series and , but by the time that story had wrapped I felt like I’d read a full trade – one of my favourite things about comics from the 90’s and before has always been the amount of content packed into each issue. The first six issues we get are wonderful. Reading these, and the other early Valiant, I can understand why the publisher gained such a strong following over the years. Compact, exciting, and with some truly exciting art (I acknowledge that comic art has come a long way since the 90’s, but these issues of Ninjak hold up very well even today).

There may only be a limited number of folks left who, like me, want to explore the original Valiant comics of the 90’s that haven’t already done so, but these hardcover editions are a brilliant gateway to the past, and great encouragement to go hunting for the comics that haven’t been collected – and may never be at this point. That’s why I think these books are underrated; because so few of you will be looking for them. Which is a shame because those early Valiant stories are fantastic.


Join us next week when we look at something else that is, for whatever reason, Underrated.

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