Ninjak #10

“Operation Deadside: Part One”

Writer Matt Kindt

Artist Doug Braithwaite

Valiant Entertainment

In this jumping-on point, Ninjak crosses into territory Valiant Entertainment hasn’t covered in a year, and the rest has done the Deadside some good.

The structure of the issue is a report from MI-6 handler Neville Alcott to a superior detailing the way a man with a magic hammer sprung one of Ninjak’s enemies and, in pulling him into the supernatural Deadside dimension, led to the explosive destruction of an MI-6 facility. Twenty men and a specialist were sent to retrieve the asset, and only one returned, so Ninjak has to retrace their steps. This will require the aid of magical drug addict Punk Mambo. As the issue closes, the reader learns that what was supposed to be a three-day mission has had a horrifying extension. In a back-up strip, Valiant’s iconic Shadowman appears to have been transformed into a monstrous enforcer called The Magpie, struggling with his mission to employ unspeakable brutality to retrieve artifacts scattered throughout the Deadside.

Valiant has been the most consistent comic publisher for the past three years, earning scores of nominations for Eisner and Harvey awards and openly choosing to publish six to nine good books each month, replacing titles as they complete story arcs instead of expanding the line or extending a book beyond its natural lifespan. Shadowman was a property I thought had amazing potential – a man using voodoo to come to terms with the loss of his father and his responsibilities as an adult – but had the toughest time delivering a great read. Inversely, the charming rogue Ninjak had been a supporting character in X-O Manowar and Unity for so long that I thought his solo series would be filler, but Matt Kindt has crafted a sexy, engaging, complicated man I can’t wait to read. Putting the two books together works perfectly.

New readers will find an engaging experience, filled with the tension of the doomed mission and wild visuals on the supernatural monsters of the Deadside. No knowledge of Ninjak, Punk Mambo, or Shadowman is required of a reader, and exposition is generally seamless for long-time fans. Matt Kindt’s last Ninjak story explored some of the more mystical potential for the character, so sending him into the phantasmagoric side of the Valiant universe feels like a natural progression rather than a gimmick, and having a traditionally grounded character like the tech-heavy British ninja as opposed to the magical Shadowman heightens the Deadside experience. Deadside itself is drawn in gory grandeur much more akin to adventures in The Second Life Of Dr. Mirage than the murk of the first depictions in the Shadowman series, showcasing the organic growth of Valiant’s shared universe. Fans of Shadowman will feel the grief in his story, but new readers can appreciate this or just read it as a straight scary monster tale. Ninjak tries out new armor in preparation for his mission, and Mambo teases him for copying X-O Manowar, a joke that isn’t jarring for a casual reader but pays off the years that these two characters have worked together.

Shadowman is set up for a resurgence at Valiant after a year underground. His visual motif is all over the upcoming Bloodshot arc, The Analog Man, and with Operation Deadside, readers are going to be in a great position for his return. This new story arc comes highly recommended to comic readers.

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Ninjak #10 is available in comic stores tomorrow.