In Jeff Parker and Javier Pulido’s Ninjak #1, the whole world knows that Colin King is Ninjak. Now he’s on the run from everyone he’s ever crossed. Being a super spy has never been more difficult, but it’s fun as hell to read about.
Right out of the gate, Parker and Pulido make it clear that this is not your typical Ninjak story. The political intrigue has been dialed up to 11, presenting readers with a stylish and unnerving set piece that feels like it’s just one step to the side of the real world. One of the things that aids in this grounded feel is that Ninjak is stripped of the kinds of Q Branch gadgets he’s utilized in the past, meaning that he has to get inventive and fight dirty. Things kick off with a guy’s throat catching the wrong end of a saw blade, and it just gets wilder from there.
Pulido draws the everliving hell out of the fight sequences, with enemy after enemy throwing themselves at Ninjak, only to be gracefully avoided and dispatched. There’s a fluidity to Ninjak’s movements, and Pulido’s pop art color palette makes every single movement feel a moment that should be framed. This is a gorgeous-looking book, even when the bloodshed is going down. Of course, that’s not to say that the book is a full-on brutal gore-fest. In fact, a few of the more violent moments are served with a bit of unexpected comedy, with one moment involving a gunman’s hand flying through the air serving as a particularly applause-worthy moment. Through it all, Pulido’s bright colors and heavy lines give this new volume of Ninjak a flavor all its own.
The book also plays around with page layouts in interesting ways, with one major standout being a scene at the beginning when two officials begin to have a hallucinatory experience. Pulido’s illustrations are perfectly married with his and David Sharpe’s lettering to make this scene all kinds of disorienting. The panel grid takes on a diagonal pattern, making the reader feel just as ill at ease as the two men at the center of it all.
This sense of style (and cool) continues through the rest of the issue, which does a valiant job (no pun intended, I swear) of catching readers up on Ninjak’s status quo. There’s a bit of exposition here and there, but for the most part, this issue is content with dropping readers into a brand new adventure.
The issue also introduces Ninjak (and the readers) to Myna, a headstrong Songbird agent who has been on the trail of Colin King for quite some time. The dialogue between the pair is a lot of fun, particularly when it comes to her efforts to get Ninjak to just tell her what the heck is going on. The book opens as though it’s one of her case files, which allows Parker to drop some exposition up top and catch folks up with Ninjak’s “badass on the run” status.
There are a few bits here that would probably be clearer if you read the end of the previous volume, but for the most part, this first issue does an admirable job of catching you up and then immediately doing its own thing. It’s hard for our characters to stop and talk to one another when there are literal mind-reading supervillains at work, but I found that the breakneck pace and breathless action more than made up for any blind spots in my own Ninjak knowledge.
In many ways, this issue feels like the opening act of a Bond movie, with all of the players being perfectly arranged in time for the theme music to kick in. This is fitting, as Ninjak has always occupied that sweet spot of “Bond, but with swords” — which probably explains why I have such an affinity for this character. Longtime fans and newcomers alike will find a lot to enjoy in this first issue, which packs in the most fun aspects of spy fiction and superhero action.
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