Ninjak #12

“Operation Deadside, part three”

Writer: Matt Kindt

Artist: Doug Braithwaite

Color Artist: Brian Reber

“Lost Files: Legend Of The Magpie”

Writer: Matt Kindt

Artist: Juan Jose Ryp

Color Artist: Ulises Arreola

In the third chapter of the four-part Operation: Deadside arc, Ninjak and Punk Mambo make it to the Deadside’s biggest city, Shambhala, causing lots of entertaining property damage before splitting up. While Mambo fights Ember, Ninjak confronts The Magpie in a demon cathedral. The former Shadowman raises the question that Valiant’s British billionaire ninja may have a supernatural origin, but before they can explore that, a terrible accident leads things between the two tortured heroes to a horribly dark place.

In the backup story, Jack Boniface has accepted his transition from the noble Shadowman to the tormented slave Magpie as a consequence of the wicked acts he had to do at the end of the Shadowman solo title, but he’d still like to stop the pain of his curse, so a mystic tells him to start kidnapping supernatural bad guys, leading us right to the capture of Fakir that started the main arc.

The story is a big improvement over last issue in most respects. There’s more action, and the potential twists to Ninjak’s origins are actually in line with some of the backstory established in the last Ninjak arc. I love the idea of Shadowman changing into The Magpie – heroes gone villain can be a lot of fun, like the Dark Phoenix or Archangel, and the way that Jack Boniface is doing this with awareness and guilt adds a compelling dramatic layer. It helps that some of his guilt is actually deserved. He did some awful things to end his war with Master Darque, and it’s not getting paid off in one issue.

Unfortunately, Punk Mambo has lost the intriguing character beats from last issue, when she examined her own guilt in the loss of her last team. She’s trying to quip like Spider-Man when she fights Ember, but she’s just not very funny, and I remember now why she kind of got on my nerves in her Shadowman appearances. Also, this is the third consecutive issue of Ninjak that doesn’t really get into Ninjak’s head. I like him as a mysterious ninja in his guest appearances, but Matt Kindt has been breaking our hearts in pieces with every new event in his backstory, and this story has been a little disruptive to that intense development.

In total, Operation: Deadside is the best Shadowman story Valiant has published yet, and it’s a great Ninjak story, too. Readers are going to love the ride of this chapter and eagerly await next month’s finale.

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Ninjak 12 goes on sale Wednesday, February 10, from Valiant Entertainment.