I won’t lie - I’m an absolute sucker for revisionist history and stories involving new spins on well-known historical events. For the new Ninja-K series, Valiant has decided to expand upon the mythos of Colin King and MI-6’s Ninja Programme, and thank god for that.
Christos Gage was brought in to craft this new series, and it’s such a cool concept it’s hard not to get caught up in it: Readers were introduced to the concept of “Ninjak” actually being “Ninja-K” in the recent past, hinting at a lineage of others who have donned the position for the United Kingdom. Having Matt Kindt, the writer who has worked the most closely with the character since Valiant’s relaunch, not here makes things a little bittersweet, but Gage is just so damn good that, as a reader, I truly didn’t mind as much.
Starting with the art, I love what Tomas Giorello is doing. He manages to capture this Rags Morales-esque quality of humanity in the faces of his characters that makes them very accessible. He uses soft inks for detail and shading in the faces, presenting raw emotions in the faces, warm, terrified, or detached when the situation calls for it. He also gives Ninjak larger eyes in his mask than most artists do, and it’s nice to see the expressiveness of Colin, making the reader more empathetic to his current emotional state.
The colors are tackled quite well by Diego Rodriguez. I alluded to Giorello’s soft inks, and in truth, they look more like pencil etchings than any sort of ink. Rodriguez could easily have chosen pastel and other lighter colors, but instead, he gives the colors the life and energy they need to convey the story. Each scene has emotional resonance thanks in large part to his color choice.
And then there’s Gage, crafting the beginning of a narrative that has been a long time coming. Gage weaves an engaging tale of how the Ninja Programme began in Britain, and each step so far is succinct and interesting. The seeds he’s planting are wonderful, and I’m excited to see where he goes with this. He also tackles the gestating relationship between Livewire and King, presenting them as two adults trying to connect on more than a physical level, and I appreciate it; a lot of writers easily present couples as “SUPER HUNKY DORY LET’S MAKE LOVE” or “THERE’S TOO MUCH SCAR TISSUE FOR US TO CONNECT,” but Gage gives us a relationship that a lot people can relate to between two adults trying to forge a bond in a mature and sensible way…despite the fact they’re super-heroes.
After a quality zero issue, Ninja-K kicks things off with a bang: intrigue, action, mystery, and a presented story that offers far more depth than a single issue can convey. Gage and Giorello are really clicking here, and the addition of Ariel Olivetti makes this series a must-read. Also? British swears are so damn fun!