Ninjak #11

Writer Matt Kindt

Art Doug Braithwaite (main) and Juan Jose Ryp (Magpie backup)

Valiant Entertainment

In last month’s issue, Ninjak and Punk Mambo crossed into the Deadside, Valiant’s answer to the afterlife. They were only supposed to be gone three days, but the narration boxes are Neville Alcott’s debriefing to his director about the thirty days these agents were missing. In the main story, Punk Mambo tries to avoid her traumatic memories of the last mission, when she had to leave dozens of men behind, and Ninjak tries to get a better understanding of the island on which they have been stranded. In the backup, Matt Kindt lets the reader in a little more on how the popular hero Shadowman turned into the Magpie, a brute terrorizing the Deadside in search of magical artifacts.

The second part of this four-part story doesn’t move much of the plot, but since we know Ninjak is going to get home in a month, it does make sense to spend this piece exploring what makes the Deadside so weird (Mambo eats an apple, and it just happens to walk around on spider legs and taste like ash and pick a fight with Ninjak and I hate apples already) and fleshing out more of Punk Mambo’s story. She’s been a memorable supporting character in Shadowman and had her own one-shot, but she has come across as something of a cipher, and showing us the guilt and torment behind her “I don’t remember” is helping the character come to life amidst the spirits of the Deadside. The Magpie story is unfortunately brief, but I am already more interested in a Shadowman story than I have been for the duration of his titular series. The end of that series was ghastly, involving Master Darque getting Jack Boniface to kill his own family and become his servant. It was a shock, and I loved Valiant’s willingness to go there with a prominent character, but I find the story of a good man in a wicked job a little more interesting – I love horror stories, but I need a little hope, and I also love the hero-turned-villain complexity (like Hal Jordan or Ultimate Reed Richards). Doug Braithwaite and Juan Jose Ryp do fantastic work visualizing the dreamlike terror of the Deadside without succumbing to cheap gore, and I am excited to see more out of both of these stories.

My one concern is that this is the second consecutive issue of Ninjak with a scarcity of its title character. The first issue was fine, as most of the book was spent setting up Ninjak’s mission, but this time, apart from defeating a monster and a little banter with Punk Mambo, he stays in the margins. He’s a great character, a charming cad, but we got more of him in the last issue of X-O Manowar, and I hope he takes more of the page for the second half of this arc.

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