REVIEW: Ninjak #12

Operation Deadside:
Writer: Matt Kindt
Artist: Doug Braithwaite
Colorist: Brian Reber

The Lost Files:
Writer: Matt Kindt
Artist: Juan José Ryp
Colorist: Ulises Arreola

In this issue of Ninjak, Matt Kindt teams up with two incredible art teams to bring us two distinct stories revolving around their Operation Deadside arc. This arc, and specifically this issue, is about the quest for redemption. Where every character is his own worst enemy. And the journey, this time, maybe more important than the goal. For the two stories, Operation Deadside and The Lost Files, Matt Kindt is blessed with some great co-creators. Both Doug and Juan are very detail oriented, which really helps Kindt expand on Valiant’s mysterious Deadside. And his colorists, Brian and Ulises, are so unique from each other that the two stories have a completely different feel to them. All of this, paired with Kindt’s superb script, makes for an immersive read.

After a series of mishaps in the Deadside, the mission finally seems to be going according to plan. As Ninjak and Punk Mambo ride on the back of a god, who is destroying the capital city of Shambhala, they prepare to confront the mighty Magpie, and recover their fugitive. They go to take the leap into the cathedral, when all of the sudden the fiery Ember comes to Magpie’s rescue. Mambo, in a bout of bravery, takes on the hammer wielding psychopath, giving Ninjak time to complete their mission. When he arrives at their destination, however, Nijak finds that his enemy may not be his enemy at all. Ninjak, sympathetic to the Magpie, holds out a helpful hand. But he quickly retracts it when a dark spirit engulfs Magpie. Operation Deadside, part 3, ends with both heroes in some incredible peril, and the Magpie standing tall and menacing.

But who is this Magpie? Why has Ember been journeying between our realm and the Deadside, collecting members of the Shadow Seven for him? The Lost Files follows the two, as they embark across the Marrow Woods to the village of Kelvin Monks. There Magpie, with the help of Ember, finds the First Kelvin. A powerful monk who may be able to help the Magpie escape his bonds, and return home. The final scene of the issue shows a member of the Shadow Seven, tricked by the duo, warning them about the cunning Ninjak.

This issue was such a fun tour of the Deadside! Doug and Juan give us such a different perspective of Valiant’s Deadside than we have ever seen before. Where we have been to the dark and grotesque aspects of Shadowman and Dr. Mirage, these two amazing artists show a brighter side of this dimension, teeming with life. Doug has this amazing introduction to the issue with a weird flying leech creature, which is a genius way to start this script. With that being the first image, it is easy for the reader to accept everything that Doug, Brian, and Matt have to come. What follows from the team is jaw dropping. Then out of nowhere we switch gears to Juan’s part of the story in The Lost Files.

Here Juan has such raw detail that is blows my mind to think of how he makes his deadlines. He has this page with a gorgeous volcano, a heavily populated village, and cluttered shaman’s hut. That page is so dense, filled from border to border, that I cannot believe it is sequential art. And as great as the pencils and inks are, the colors are just as vibrant.

Just like the clear differences with Doug and Juan, we see just as big of a change betwixt Brian and Ulises. Brian’s color on the Operation Deadside story are all over the place, but in the best way possible. One moment he gives us this dark and fiery scene of Ember, or the Island God’s destruction. The next are these bright pinks, blues, and magentas that pop out so well from the background. There was just one problematic scene from Brian, when Ember and Mambo crash into a theater. The colors were just too dark to easily make-out all of Doug’s work. Outside of that, he did a fantastic job.

When the issue switches to Ulises and Juan’s work, the book seems to transition from magic and wonder, to fantasy and despair. That page I mentioned earlier, by Juan, is also colored very well. I could almost feel the heat of the lava. Then later, when Fisch is introduced, Ulises’ color for the ocean is perfect. Both colorists did a great job for their pencilers, and I would buy this issue for the art alone.

Lastly is Matt’s scripts. I read some time ago, in an interview when this arc was announced, that Matt was going into the unknown with Operation Deadside. That he does not usually write stories about magic and fantasy. Well that uncertainty is not even close to being apparent, with the exception of Ninjak saying, “I hate magic.” In fact, quite the opposite. Matt seems to have taken it upon himself to give us readers an entirely new portion of the Deadside. One with new rules, new history, and new life. Not only does he do that, but he also does a great job including past continuity laid down by Justin Jordan and Peter Milligan. Which is fun for readers who have stuck with the mythos since the beginning. Matt’s introduction to this issue is smart, as a military debriefing is very thorough, and it he uses it as an informative narration. I really enjoyed the reference to an impending lawsuit, it gives the impression that Matt is having a lot of fun with this.

I also have really been enjoying his Magpie story line in The Lost Files. It really helps push this arc’s theme of redemption. Between Ninjak’s past continuing to haunt him, Mambo’s fear of her past failures, and Magpie’s unbearable pain and guilt, this issue digs deep into characters that we have not seen in awhile. The only strange part of the writing was the argument in the debriefing. The commander pushes Neville for more information, and then all the suddens tells him to spare them. Just did not flow very well.

Besides two minor complications, this was another wonderful issue by this creative team/s and Valiant Entertainment. Matt Kindt has been doing some incredible things with Ninjak, going places I never thought he would go. But he has not done it by himself. This issue specifically was greatly influenced by the art team. Each story, Operation Deadside and The Lost Files, had a unique texture to each of them, which made the issue worth every dime. I also would like to give credit to the letterer, Dave Sharpe. His captions and speech bubbles were perfectly placed. They never got in the way of the art, and they also outlined defining moments in each panel. With all of this, I give Ninjak #12, 4 stars out of 5.

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