Review: Ninjak Vol. 1 (2021)

A Graphic Novel by by Jeff Parker & Javier Pullido

Ninjak is one of those books that, despite the silly 90’s-riffic title, always seems to deliver with action and intrigue you don’t get with many “superhero” books. Half James Bond and Half Snake-Eyes from GI Joe, Ninjak is an interesting idea that could be seen as Valliant’s version of a book such as Batman, without completely ripping it off. Rather than having a character that dwells on his past and a sense of justice like the Dark Knight, Ninjak is basically a mercenary. He is both ruthless and charming, both a legendary super-spy and hired gun despite his upbringing in British High Society. It’s been a hot minute since I’ve read a Ninjak book, and this one looks to be quite the departure from normal Valiant faire, simply due to the creative team on board, especially Javier Pullido.

“OUT OF THE SHADOWS AND INTO THE DAYLIGHT… Colin King is NINJAK, an ex-MI6 superspy who is second to none. There is no target that Colin cannot strike, no mission that he cannot complete. But what happens to the world’s greatest secret agent when all of his secrets are exposed? The entire criminal underworld has Ninjak in their sights… How will the undercover operative survive when there’s nowhere left to hide? Start reading here as Ringo Award-winning writer JEFF PARKER (Batman ’66, James Bond Origin, Thunderbolts) and visionary artist JAVIER PULIDO (The Amazing Spider-Man, Robin: Year One, She-Hulk) craft a spy thriller story that is unlike anything you’ve seen before! Collecting NINJAK (2021) #1-4.”

In a stark departure from other books for this franchise, this feels a LOT more akin to an actual spy book, forgoing the battles with other meta-humans in order to actually build some suspense. The whole story centers around a leakage of numerous names within the MI-6 database, and with his cover blown Colin has nowhere to hide and everyone basically against him. All-in-all this actually felt a LOT like one of the Tom Cruise Mission: Impossible films in terms of style and tone, and that’s definitely not a bad thing.

I’m not sure what happened over at Valiant HQ, but the choice to fire the artist, Javier Pullido, in the last issue of the book is somewhat jarring and kind of spoils the whole look of the book. He has a VERY distinct art style, so any departure from it sticks out a lot. One would have hoped sticking it out or publishing it as-is (seeing that he allegedly submitted his manuscript) would have been a short commitment that would have kept this as more of a cohesive product. I’m used to this sort of thing with companies like Marvel, but it’s my first real disappointment I’ve had with Valiant. Beni Lobel did a good job trying to match the vibe of the other issues, but I am left feeling that it was a missed opportunity.

Overall, I liked this until the very end. having that last issue somewhat spoiled due to the art change-up was unfortunate and I’d love to hear what exactly happened to cause it. I know some folks may not have liked the art style, but if you go with an artist like that, PLEASE stick with it!

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