Christos Gage (Writer), Juan José Ryp (Artist), Jordie Bellaire (Colours), A Larger World Studios (Letters)
16 May, 2018
Colin King, aka Ninja-K, is wounded. His fight with his former backup agent, K-2, went badly and as a result, Mexico City has been obliterated. Now, the Mexican government has brought in their own super-team to protect them. Little do they know that this coalition has other devious plans in store.
Despite still being in recovery, Ninja-K’s handler, Neville Alcott, tasks him and his teammate Livewire with recruiting a new team. First on their list is Dr. Mirage, an expert on the occult. Dr. Mirage is joined by her dead husband, Hwen, also a doctor, one who is adept at fighting ghosts. The two doctors make up the brains of the operation but for the brawn, they must turn to voodoo specialist Punk Mambo, an unconventional, albeit effective, fighter.
To round off the team, a giant robot named Gin-GR is employed, but her inclusion is tricky—she caused the destruction of Mexico City. Her much-needed firepower is an asset to the team but there are precautions they must take to ensure her presence does not cause an international incident. Unfortunately, the team is about to find out that this is the least of their problems—the coalition is better prepared and stronger than they can possibly imagine, and they have a secret weapon.
Not being familiar with this story, I found it a tad confusing, at first, to understand the world of Ninja-K. Fortunately, the series has a fail-safe for new readers—a recap in the opening pages familiarises you with where the story is at present. There is also a character list of the main cast, including biographies. Throughout the text, characters explain aspects of the world, which might make the book seem exposition-heavy for returning readers but, as I was a bit lost, I am not going to complain about it! After all, the world of Ninja-K was established back in the ’90s—imagine trawling through decades worth of comics just to pick up a current issue. I think not.
The plot of this book focuses almost entirely on the recruitment of Ninja-K’s team. There is very little action bar one fight scene, but the pace never slows down. Getting to know the new characters, as well as the coalition of villains, makes this book quite the entertaining page-turner. Props to writer Christos Gage for the cliffhanger at the very end, a clever inclusion because, up until that point, things had been allowed to go quite smoothly for the heroes. It is a subtle clue for things to come and will make even the newest of readers curious to pick up the next issue.
Artist Juan José Ryp does a good job throughout. His art isn’t extravagant but one can immediately see how much detail has gone into the uniforms and facial features of the characters. Also, it is so good to see female characters wearing functional uniforms, barring Punk Mambo who is dressed as a civilian. And I have to mention that Ryp’s detailing for the characters’ hair is remarkable. You can practically see each strand, whether it’s Punk Mambo’s pink punk cut, Dr. Mirage’s blue pixie cut, Ninja-K’s black hair or Livewire’s braids. Ryp’s work caught my eye immediately.
Ryp’s art is brought to life by Jordie Bellaire’s gorgeous colours. There aren’t a lot of settings in this book but the characters are colourful enough—both in their personalities and their uniforms—to rivet the eyes on the page. Bellaire uses a subdued but diverse colour palette that not only adds to the characters, but is visually arresting. This is a vibrant world and Bellaire’s colour work brings its vibrancy alive.
The one thing I absolutely loved about this book though, was the number of female characters. Whereas the coalition sadly only has one female villain, the team of heroes includes Livewire, who is a woman of colour, Dr. Mirage, Punk Mambo and Gin-GR. Ninja-K is the only male hero aside from Hwen Mirage, who we never see because he is a ghost. The female characters have a ton of personality, much more than Ninja-K, in fact, who comes across as stuffy and self-absorbed.
Livewire is a leader and fighter who is much more capable than Ninja-K seems to give her credit for. Dr. Mirage is an expert in her field but also someone who is mourning the loss of her husband, despite being able to communicate with his ghost. We do not get to know much about Gin-GR as she is a late entry to the book, but how often do we get to see a giant robot who is also female? Nice!
Of all the characters, Punk Mambo is undoubtedly the most fascinating. When readers meet her in this book, she is about to battle a bunch of zombies, which she does on a regular basis in her capacity as a voodoo specialist. She is also constantly high as a kite and does not take nonsense from anyone, especially overly macho dudebros like Ninja-K. Who wouldn’t want to read more about her? We need a Punk Mambo series, Valiant!
We do not get to see much of the villains, which I was really looking forward to. I want to learn more about the coalition, who seem like the kind of over-the-top megalomaniacal characters one would expect in a G.I. Joe comic, but with a dash more immortality thrown in.
My only grouse with the book is Ninja-K himself. He is nothing more than a generic stuffed-shirt hero. He even broods. Are we not done with this trope yet? And why on Earth is the ninja a white, British man? The initial comic series from the ‘90s may have been able to get away with this, but surely in 2018 the creators of this series should know better? Unfortunately, it does not look like this matter can be rectified, which is a shame because his ethnicity really throws a spanner in the works.
Despite my initial confusion, this seventh issue of Ninja-K turned out to be, more or less, a fun ride. The world of this series isn’t overly convoluted but manages to pack in plenty of surprises. I love the female characters, who have distinct personalities and are fun to read about. The story is well-told and fascinating enough for me to keep reading. If only the title character weren’t so bland, it would make for a much more enjoyable reading experience. One can only hope he gets more interesting in upcoming issues.