Matt Kindt’s VALIANT – Divinity Gauntlet & Roku Rises

divinity

Some thoughts on some of Matt Kindt’s work at VALIANT.

Much like waiting for the trade I decided to combine some reviews I did that share logical categories and this post covers some work by the great cartoonist Matt Kindt’s work for VALIANT in Divinity and Ninjak.

I should stress that I did these as the single issues came out so if I look dumb with some, well to be honest most, of my guesses it’s because I didn’t just read a trade and review all of the issues as if it was one sitting but instead combined 4 separate reviews I did. Hope you enjoy.

Divinity is new.

It gives us a new character. It’s a new series from VALIANT comics, and perhaps most revealing of its quality, it’s the latest Matt Kindt joint.

I’m a big fan of VALIANT in general but what I have been waiting for is not only new characters, because they have plenty in their existing titles, but a new IP as well to give me that same feeling I attach to VALIANT of old, which soon after the licensed and excellent Magnus: Robot Fighter and Solar: Man of the Atom, rolled out new characters that were not only a force in the industry for a short time, but among my favorites of all time: Rai, Harada, Bloodshot, Archer & Armstrong, the Harbinger kids, the list goes on and on. So as excited as I am for something like Imperium #1, I was really intrigued with Divinity, which is not only a new direction, it’s just different.

Diversity is a hot topic word in comics. A lot of it revolves around the creative talent, but I think equally important is what they are creating.

Put it like this, I don’t think it matters to anyone watching that white Martin Brest directed the movie, what was important, what affected people, was that Eddie Murphy was Axel Foley, being cooler than anyone has ever been. VALIANT just threw down the infinity gauntlet here with Divinity.

divinity valiant deluxe

Are you black? Are you Russian? Are you a Commie? Do you climb mountains in the Australian outback just because? Are you a Cold War-era Russian honey waiting for her BBC to come back?

If you are you might be interested in Divinity.

If you just like awesome unique comics in a shared-world setting, you will LOVE Divinity.

A lot of people are going to focus on the nature of the main character, Abram Adams, and how this narrative is is fed to us and the extent of his powers. You can get all of your biblical parallels from them, along with how weighty and layered the book is. For me though, the panels by Kindt and artist Trevor Hairsine that stuck with me were these:

divinity valiant
divinity valiant

Pulps are kind of the chosen era of Science fiction that the comics industry tends to connect too and reference, but this kid was probably reading Golden Age SF. I know that many people probably thought and have repeated the idea of VALIANT creating their new Solar from glancing at the promos and synopsis for Divinity. Solar, in the original VALIANT universe, was a fan of the Gold Key comics of the ’60s and when he achieved his powers he more or less took on the form and powers of Solar from that line.

When considering Abram’s probable age it’s actually somewhat problematic figuring out whether he was reading old pulps, or the aforementioned Golden Age science fiction, or even (less likely) the beginnings of the New Wave, but what struck me was he began as one of the former, yet Kindt is telling it to us in that New Wave style.The Golden Age boy that didn’t die and came back trying to fit in and find a story he doesn’t have the pages too, one that he doesn’t know.

Time is not absolute.

The other thing about these panels is that I’m kind of sure they are the only ones that are most assuredly real. In a narrative that goes through time and mentions dreams, and creating from dreams, the one thing we know that Abram didn’t take with him from earth was knowledge of the Spider-Aliens, one of the only familiar elements of VALIANT lore in the first issue . Did he dream up or recreate our new VALIANT universe in the way Solar did? Is what we see in this issue false and he was merely abducted and then abandoned again?

VALIANT has returned with some great comics and I always read them but Divinity is the first that is a top of the stack book. It offers questions I can’t really go to my VALIANT history files to answer. Not only that, they are questions I wanted answered. Further, this is the first book that I felt like didn’t try to recapture something., instead Kindt’s Divinity is creating, and VALIANT fans should love him for it, and non-VALIANT fans need to jump on the genesis of something funky.

What’s next? Lemire on Ninjak. Let’s get Michel Fiffe on this. Let’s get Kagan Macleod. Bring back Emanuela. Oh my god let’s bring back Emanuela. Let’s get Nate Powell. VALIANT Next could be the scene. Kindt’s brought forward that Alpha and Omega. It all starts here.

Maybe. Because it’s possible none of what we see here has happened. But it still matters.

Like I said in the beginning, this is a Matt Kindt joint.

Divinity #2

I’m going to begin at the end. I do so because it answers a question I posed had regarding the active integration of Divinity into the VALIANT universe and does so emphatically. What seemed like a first issue that was a bit methodically paced for a four issue mini, Divinity #2 changes that and adroitly avoids a pitfall that I talked about when discussing the function of H.A.R.D. Corps. Matt Kindt and Trevor Hairsine are delivering the book that makes one most recall one of VALIANT’s must enduring taglines: Time is not Absolute.

It’s only right that Divinity #2 brings us Unity.

Bringing in Unity does two things. It both brings Abram Adams into the world we know and it shows us that VALIANT isn’t scared to bloody their big names, their A-Team, to show us, not just infer, who the new H.N.I.C. is. This is the team that took down the Armor Hunters, a group of people who destroy planets for a living, and then stole their mobile home, and Double A just kills them with kindness, as he sends out a prophet — one who is a scientist — to tell us he has come.

divinity sphere valiant comics

Reading the first issue was so new and fresh it kind of caught me off guard, the way every good story is supposed to in truth, but as I got into this issue I started collecting myself and making basic, albeit still wrong, observations. First, I suspect Adams is still in the cosmonaut suit, hell, maybe still in a human form, to maintain some semblance of his humanity.

For a lot of the first two issues he’s going back to the moments before whatever occurred to him and his life with his girl and finding out she was pregnant. Indeed, one of the soldiers he allowed in his Eden is telling his girl, who has baby in hand, they should stay there, together, a possible reflection of Abram’s own desires of a reunion. Then again, it could be that the suit is just too rad not to wear, and not even divine power can conjure sweeter gear. There’s also his choice of paradise. One could imagine he could create anything, of any size,shape, and color. He chose something that looks like home. His Eden is Earth.

Then again, why would this be his ideal? The kid allegedly grew up reading science fiction in Russia and blasted off into space at a young age. Did he choose the form from co-opting what most people think paradise is? The Vine are also big on plant life. I also think about why is it it’s own autonomous entity and not land based? Is he going somewhere?

I think what Abrams does to the Unity team might be worth looking at. I think the possibility of going overboard is present with a being we have reason to assume is uber powerful, but I’d just point out that when you’re somebody of incredible means, you still would utilize simple when its equally effective. I took his efforts as illusion, much in the way Harada employed in Imperium #1.

The part dealing with Gilad is interesting because I’m not sure how I see it. One, it could be showing him as more immune to Abram’s powers as he still is moving forward, but I think it is so in a way not so direct, meaning his words in the panel are not for the Unity team but more of an example of Kindt showing us the realization of what they are confronting in Divinity. Sure, someone called The Eternal Warrior may want to die, but only to something in his heart and mind he knows he cannot defeat. Our greatest soldier and warrior, the champion of the earth is overwhelmed.

Not panicked because that’s not how Gilad rolls, but more the expert observation of someone who has faced everything head on and walked away. Gilad may want an end, but not one he thinks he even has a chance to conquer. Even more, he doesn’t just die, he gets older. The Eternal Warrior perhaps wants to drop the Eternal part. He wants to be subject to time; for time to be absolute.

Everybody else has family issues, the Ninjak one sticks out probably because I just read the Kindt penned Ninjak #1. I’m not sure if the background art is not clear or if that’s Colin’s castle in a dilapidated state — a broken home. From this page we also can see that Abram’s powers are not in any way resisted by Aric’s armor. Livewire sees a vision of an apologetic Harada and it got me thinking about the scenes that are highlighted that Abram saw and shared with his prophet. Scenes of world changing violence — is his coming going to be tied with the rise of Harada’s Imperium?

I’m still trying to wrap my head around where exactly Kindt wants us to go with the scenes going back to Abram and his girl’s pregnancy. Obviously a reader is supposed to wonder about the child but I’m unsure of the relevance of that would be, as surely if relevant, Abram could find the child with little effort, and my mind keeps going back to a single panel from the first issue of a woman on a throne surrounded by the Vine. We only get two women, barring Livewire, in the the first two issues, and the two in Abram’s life are his apparent former girlfriend and an alien authority.

I also find myself thinking about his girl’s name: Eva. Eva fits a comic that is riddled with biblical parallels, but “EVA” also means “any activity done by an astronaut or cosmonaut outside a spacecraft beyond the Earth’s appreciable atmosphere.” I also wonder how the Soviets, who put so much into Abrams wouldn’t have known about his girl and the possible attachment issue. Is his kid’s name Erica?

I also find the scene where he is in the ship talking somewhat confusing, and I’m not sure if it’s intended or not. I know it’s stated that he keeps reporting back home via radio even though he doesn’t know if anyone is listening, out of habit, but a part of it can also be read as if there are rather SPECIFICALLY two more occupants.

divinity abrams valiant

Who are “you both” if he’s not talking to people back “at home”?

Alpha and Omega is on the shortlist, and maybe tops it, when considering the greatest VALIANT stories ever told. Solar cast the old VALIANT universe and that arc spawned the Eternal Warrior and the Geomancers. It was about creation. That very thing is what is exciting about Divinity. I’m reading it like Abrams did; I’m turning and bookmarking pages; it’s VALIANT so I’m looking at the past, present, and even 4001 A.D. Tokyo. This is new ground. VALIANT ground.

I don’t know what’s going on but I’m as engaged as I haven’t been since I was buying VALIANTs with coupons in them. The comic collector in me views the cutting of such coupons as a form of personal torture, an anathema, but if I had to do it to get Divinity #3 coupon cutting would be my new hobby.

It’s probably about a girl though. It usually is.

Divinity #3

Matt Kindt seamlessly goes from solo street level corporate espionage adventures of Ninjak to VALIANT comics cosmic with the third issue of Divinity, where one becomes three, twice, and where Kindt and Trevor Hairsine takes us where no man has gone before.

That there were two more members on the mission with Abram makes sense, I pointed out visual evidence of that possibility in my review of Divinity #2, and the number 3 tends to be symbolic in a lot of ways, including in religious discourse. It strikes me that they are all conveniently color coded, Abram is red, a female is orange, another man is either black or gray. Now VALIANT fans will scurry to find characters in other titles wearing those as accents.

At the moment of truth, we get a glimpse of a woman, who everyone in VALIANT fandom … okay just me wants to associate with Mothergod, which coincidentally would be a perfect name when considering the Abram we have seen thus far. I guess it could be his girl from Russia, or they could be the same. There seems to be extra care given to image though, there’s a clarity to it that is lacking in some of Harisine’s renderings of her. It’s magical, the color and art emanating serenity at the border of chaos. It’s beautiful.

Back in present time, facing Unity, Abrams chooses the word “tovarich”, which means comrade in Russian, though unless he’s being ironic, it might imply an actual friendship between him and Gilad in the future, which is possible due to Abram being Abram and Gild being functionally immortal.

They attack and Abram hits them with his Divinity Gauntlet power, the guy is just untouchable, literally being able to warp reality and time for separate individuals in an instant. It makes you think the only reason he allows for a confrontation to occur is because he wants it to.

As we see in the back-up stories in Ninjak, Colin has had run-ins with some fairly odd folk, and in this case he learned some sort of meditation technique from an “undead monk”, which just increases this guy’s totally next level Batman-factor he has going on, and he proceeds to free the rest of Unity. The unpowered man, saving a group that’s more or less super powered, while doing it looking kind of like a Brit Twilight Samurai.

Kindt returns to the trio of cosmonauts and sets up the possibility of two more uber characters, as Abram decides to return home while his teammates proceed on. While questions are answered, or rather truths clarified, I’m still unsure about what might be fundamental realities that help me find where I am in the story. Questions from the leftest of fields enter my mind.

Obviously Abram really wanted to get back home and he may have been sent back to earth, but now I wonder if he was pushed to go in the first place with a hook to insure his return. Also, he says he came back too late, and the exact words chosen was “entire generations” had come and gone. While technically I guess that’s correct as we see it in the comic book, but he may have returned MUCH later initially, and we are seeing him come back to our time — we did get an image of him in the first issue looking at what’s almost definitely 4001 Japan. It looks like after he lands he travels. Back to that in a moment.

I get that the desire to be with his wife and coming child is this innate human pull that we are supposed to buy blindly, even crossing the cosmos, but while a basic instinct that could be taken plainly at a universal face value, it could be too easy for Kindt. Is everything for his girl and child or is everything because of them? Does being Abram’s constant mean they are the ground or are they the inspiration?

In the pages of Divinity we have a god-like being who still tells us he chooses to remember events the way he wants to, the way he has to. In fact, look at how he chooses to confront Unity, he distorts time and reality, makes them live a life they don’t fully recall or understand. Alone and lost.

I’ve read many novels about books. Calvino’s If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler, Ende’s Neverending Story, Goldman’s The Princess Bride, Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves, dozens more, so when I keep seeing a book being inserted into a narrative that seems to mirror or be the impetus of the story being told, it always piques my curiosity — I love fictional books within fiction.

VALIANT has always had books in their universe.

Those books I mentioned above are all masterpieces, some in multiple mediums, and if you are familiar with Kindt’s independent work, you know he is into minutia, he uses all parts of a canvas to tell story, and more is even more welcome when he has Hairsine at his best in the pages of Divinity, with inker and colorist Winn and Baron just killing it, most noticeably in the scenes where Abrams and his crew reach for the divine. What we do know is that Kindt and the art team have given us, yes, a page turner but one that has some weight to it.

You know what the purple Infinity Gem is? It’s the space game. It’s power?

Allows the user to exist in any or all locations, move any object anywhere throughout reality and warp or rearrange space. At full potential it grants Omnipresence.

Abram’s child has a purple rose pinned on her. Different colors have come to represent many things. Purple can represent love on first sight, royalty, or enchantment. Her mother has a similar colored dress. In the first issue we see Abram visiting a woman on an alien throne. More importantly, and I told you we’d come back to this, he didn’t summon them to him.

They didn’t just appear. It seems like he went to them. He can see every page, he has seen the end, but I’m not sure if it was every his story.

Divinity #4

VALIANT. I’m not sure what happened here. After being blessed with three mind bending and rapturous issues of Divinity

… I’m not sure what to make of Divinity #4, the concluding chapter of the first Divinity miniseries. More and more the title to my third review seems more apt here or now. So let me start with what I am sure about.

I don’t really care about David Camp. A character we were introduced to the first issue of the mini, seeming destined for a grand purpose, and at the time, many thought was perhaps in some way Abrams or his child, does in some way become his first child, a first apostle, and forms what looks like another group in a VALIANT world overrun by groups, cabals, organizations, and ninja nuns.

We were introduced to him climbing a mountain, and now we seem him writing or bearing what I guess is the word or covenant between Abram and his people. As an outcome it’s at best a non-story within the story I wanted, because my assumption coming in was that they would be a dedicated commie flock, given the name of the book. Once you go nunja you don’t go back.

I thought what was a pretty interesting about the whole first arc of Divinity, my favorite comic to read of the last four months, was how unfirm the footing was throughout. We weren’t sure what was real, we weren’t sure if it was real how reliable the narrator was, and the path seemed to be headed toward the nature of Abram Adams, the extent of his abilities, and what he wanted.

Because of this, the neatness with how this was seemingly wrapped up was more aggravating to me than what I think the intended satisfaction of having a conclusion was meant to be, even with the added promise offered to us via an immediate ad for Divinity II to follow. I suspect this prison or the length of the sentence is more or less self imposed more than anything, and while that probably is the only logical outcome considering his power, it isn’t one that I found totally satisfying. They literally put Abram neatly into a box and buried him.

There’s probably a bow around it.

I think this comic could be a little confusing and is so because of specific line by Livewire, “My projections are working, he’s lost in his own head”.

Confusing shouldn’t ever be confused with complex, layered, or nuanced. Kindt is too aware to know that isn’t the most potentially misdirecting line in the comics, and it is so somewhat unnaturally, put in simply to be confusing. I say this because if you remove that piece of dialogue, nothing changes, we follow the dialogue and we are left with Abram having the ability to bend and warp reality and space.

Abilities I’m sure he has but are somehow being looped by Livewire, which makes this taking down this dude pretty much a walk in the park, just having to beat up on some civilians turned cult — wearing what looks like commie red battle scarves they stole from Bishop — for a second and catching their ride. I think on those terms, the taking down of Divinity, the conclusion was a bit soft and pat.

I don’t think we learned anything in this issue that we already didn’t know coming in, we just witnessed the parking of the miniseries.

Parking is a term that came to me yesterday while he sat in his pod prison and it hit me as I read the issue with Ivar, Time Walker #4 sitting right next to it — I came to the thought that Abram cannot actually time travel as we conceive it in popular culture.

He can witness history, he can see it unfold, rereading it over and over until the pages of history are worn from his use, but he cannot intercede or interject. He cannot jump back to his life. He merely can be an audience to it. He can warp reality, and I think even bring you back from death (I think what we saw of David Camp showed us this) but I don’t think he can actually manipulate time.

He can be an audience to it, but cannot participate. This is why his interpretation from the beginning has been that of a book and of a reader, not as an author. He has immense powers but he keeps searching for a lost horizon that does exist but cannot for him. Life went on. His girlfriend and child are not part of his story, they had lived their own. As Neville says for us later: “We can’t change the past, we can’t control the future”

Something for us to think about when considering both Abram and Toyo Harada but these words are striking because if we go back to book analogy, only an author can do so. He’s still a kid who read pulps. Remember, as I noted in my review of the previous issue of Divinity, and it is made real here, his journey to his wife and child was the first thing he did when he touched down. It was the reason for his journey “The first thing I did when I came back was this”. I think it was illustrated pretty well and clearly by Hairsine last issue

I don’t think Matt Kindt is unaware of the confusion.

Now I flip through the life of Abram Adams like the worn pages of a dog-eared novel.

Wondering at the meaning.

Kindt wants us to reread Divinity, in fact, he knows we will. At some point when we come back to this page we already would have. Then would be now. You’re looking at now. Everything that happens now, is happening now. I suspect Kindt did some of his own digging in the creates reading as his prison is eerily similar to a previous VALIANT prison used on a god, but enough about old stuff.

He has been busy looking though the pages of the book that isn’t his story. Instead his story is written by his followers, as he imself processes a book he doesn’t want to end. I think it’s also compelling that while I don’t really get excited for yet another group in VALIANT, I think the “travellers” may be named such because Abram gave them a lifetime of their wants and dreams already, as he did for a shorter time with the Unity team. He gave them Eden as he is rejected from his. I do wonder if his power is limited as recounted by his former girlfriend and child, or if this is a wall he himself has set. He doesn’t like endings. He rereads. Meanwhile, Neville Alcott is the type of guy that a much maligned cinematic Jonathan Kent fears in Man of Steel. He would bury Superman.

When I first started writing this I was going to title it “God Fall”, but I later found it inappropriate. There is a child-like simplicity to Abram, even armed with what may be ultimate power, and it’s because of inexperience, yes, but mores, is that, again, he’s been only reading one book.

He’s the hero of it. Instead, he’s reminds me more of another term familiar to comic fans: a New God. We are witnessing the birth of a god, not the fall of one. A new god for a new VALIANT universe. In the end he almost playfully converses with his child, something that could be interpreted as Livewire visiting a prisoner to sate him and keep him occupied, but I think he has this power and his child visits and leaves, prolonging his journey, one he probably relives while she is gone.

The first arc of Divinity was magnificent, and while I’m a slightly underwhelmed by the finale, I understand it to mirror the title character. This book is not yet about Divinity, it’s the book Abram Adams has to put down before his can be written. The symbolism of a fallen new god from unknown heavens buried underneath us, who only wanted love has potential. A god left sitting in the dark by his children. Down under.

Let’s not forget that he has two friends out there too. Two that didn’t buckle and run home.

roku valiant

Today I’m going through the first issue of Ninjak, the latest installment of VALIANT’s ‘Next’ branded titles, written by one of my favorite creators in comics, Matt Kindt, with art by Clay Mann and Butch Guice (on the back-up story).

The first two issues of Imperium have been winners, and Divinity #1 is perhaps my favorite single VALIANT issue yet, also written by Kindt. I know Ninjak probably doesn’t top many fan favorite lists of VALIANT characters but I like the character a lot and have fond memories of not only a great classic VALIANT cameo 1st appearance but also beautiful art by Joe Quesada. I’m not going through every page just ones that catch my fancy.

Page 3: we are introduced to Roku (who I’ve added to the character files), a new character who is described to us as being pretty badass. It looks like she may have been wrapped up like a mummy as part of her incarceration. Literal bondage. I rolled and enjoyed everything here (especially the panel with one of the guards killing himself in the background), except the hair part of her abilities may have been one step farther than I wanted to go.

I think VALIANT has been industry leader level when it comes to diverse characters without having to make an announcement out of it, both regarding race and gender. I hope Roku sticks.

Roku is “six” in Japanese. So she is Agent Six.

Page 7: We are outside the prison the Russian built around Roku (because she was too dangerous to move). It’s QUITE extravagant from the glimpse we see.

Page 8: Ninjak apparently likes to get as close as possible to the blast radius of bombs he detonates.

Page 9–10: Colin King/Ninjak has always to me been somewhat of the Bruce Wayne/Batman archetype in VALIANT for me. In these page we not only get a glimpse of his wealth, but because that archetype is in my mind the flashback scene with Colin as a kid leaving a movie theater alone in a bad part of town felt like it could have been a block away from where the Waynes were gunned down and Batman was born.

Indeed, the Waynes were coming from watching a movie as well: Zorro. The creation of Batman was influenced by a few elements, one of which was Zorro. One is led to draw the same conclusions with Ninjak, as young Colin is watching a martial arts film, something he clearly loves.

The beginning of the issue even diagrams his Bat Belt.

Page 11–12:

Ninjak has always had a great design (especially after the aforementioned Joe Quesada got a hold of him), but his name has always been pretty dumb. At the time it didn’t even feel like it served any purpose at all, since we were a few years past the ninja boom in entertainment. In this pages were learn there are or have been several Ninjas each with a letter designation Ninja-A through Ninja-K. Ninjak.

This is especially interesting because it opens the possibility of several new characters under those other designations. In fact, this first issue opens up a lot of slots for characters/antagonists, We learn about Weaponer, a clandestine global arms dealer/manufacturer has seven bosses, called The Shadow Seven.

We also learn that Roku is a high ranking member of Kannon’s (one of the bosses) organization. I’m unsure if Roku is a psiot or just geared up by Weaponer or both. We do learn that Weaponer has nanotech technology later in the issue.

Page 14–15: I feel like this is supposed to mean something, but the wolf emblem on what I’m assuming is a girl’s shirt that Colin is wearing that he confiscated from someone on his way back to meet Kannon as part of his test is shown prominently on three panels.

Page 16: we get Colin’s anti-Alfred.

Page 17: we see Roku again in her uniform.

The Lost Stories (back-up story)

Page 8: Last Laugh pub. Trying to make out the image.

We learn that as recently as ten years ago Colin was a spy but not a fighter. Movies also pop up again, film is really big to Colin, a probably fantasy escape that led him to want to go into the line of work he’s in, to live a fantasy. I mean… the guy even has his own castle.

Back to more alleys in this story too. The beatdown he catches here, which probably spurns him to train to become a fighter (his style obviously influenced by some of his childhood movies — he’s a rich tech’d out dude who chooses to carry a sword), is somewhat mirrored by the beatdown he gets from Kannon’s men as part of his initiation in the current storyline. The past Colin got beat up to cause a distraction and could do nothing but get beat up, the current Colin’s skills is shown by his control in not killing all of his assailants on pure instinct.

Ninjak #2

I really enjoyed the first issue of Ninjak and I’ve been excited to see the second issue of both it and Divinity, two VALIANT Next projects written by Matt Kindt, half of the writing team that brought us The VALIANT miniseries, which recently concluded and left a new status quo for the VALIANT universe.

My look at the first issue was a walkthrough but we are going to hit this one up more traditionally and we start on the streets of Japan which I think immediately should make one think about Kindt’s work in Rai, and if you didn’t from the beginning you should have when Colin and Kannon they entered an establishment called Club 4001.

We are continuing Colin’s mission impossible-type infiltration of Weaponer, which seems to be going to bit too quickly, a bit too recklessly, but this is comic book pacing, and through it we get a few pages that must have been at the same time fun and annoying for Clay Mann to draw, as the club scenes are full of fun visuals, including a wait staff of monkeys, but also include others animals, which are historically seem not among the favorite things for a comic book artists to draw.

The color work here really makes this part pop in particular. Colin is instructed to kill anybody in the club and through the process we are tuned into Ninjak’s preparation, skill, and the level of technology he’s able to bring to bear for a mission.

Like I noted in my review of the first issue, there is a lot of Batman in this Ninjak’s origins, but he’s gone past that street noir feeling (that we do get in the backup stories) and is a full blown bobby digital ninja spy. Right now, while Colin’s plan itself seems accelerated, the story Kindt’s telling seem methodical in pace, he explains things with a crime ridden internal monologue which he has a right to due to the unknown to us tech Ninjak employs, but in the future I think we definitely could see a quicker change of pace in that regard because we will come to learn that Ninjak is prepared, maybe with a little help of what are perhaps the most useful single page/panel equipment schematic pages I have seen in comics.

That’s just a part of Kindt’s layers, his thinking out the character, but his partner in crime in Ninjak, Clay Mann has a clarity in his drawings and I think he could tell some of that story and easily assume some of that burden. This is a really beautifully drawn comic.

The butler did it.

We get a little bit more on Colin’s childhood and evil-Alfred. I’m interested to see how Kindt pays this off to make sprinkling it in matter. It’s a pretty familiar trope so I expect Kindt has a special purpose for it.

I spent some time talking about new VALIANT characters and I’m glad to see Roku back, and one of the great examples of what I was talking about with visual storytelling that Mann can convey is illustrated in a panel where her silhouette reveals her presence, then doesn’t, before she appears again to attack Ninjak.

It will be interesting to see if Roku and Colin’s relationship will go on as he infiltrates Weaponer, as Ninjak and her battle again in the future. She was once against pointed out as unique in this issue when she was the only one in the club that could not be identified by Ninjak’s tech. Even with a duel and escape left to us as the cliffhanger, as when we get to the next issue we are still on the clock, Kindt still leaves us a scene we have to return to in a limited amount of time before Kannon wakes up, and even before that because he has to clean up the scene (the glass broke). It strikes me that Colin might have wanted to be seen, as there’s no real other reason to change into his Ninjak uniform unless it was a security measure.

The backup story shows us a much more confident Colin than from the previous issue. In the current story he reflected on missing the old days of simple assassinations and we get one here. But it isn’t. I have to admit seeing a bald female become the target it made me for a second think about the girl he’s fighting today with the crazy hair, not to mention there was no information on her, just like Roku, but it doesn’t seem to be a fit barring incredible circumstances. I hope this is yet another new character that Kindt has come up with for VALIANT. Trained in multiple, mystical, ancient death rites by a modern Mayan cult? It’s that easy, I’m interested.

I think it worth mentioning when dealing with characters coming off of books like Unity and The VALIANT is that those are practically event level books and circumstances and the downshift to reground characters in their own books has to occur.

I think we see that with a recent issue of Unity being a Livewire solo issue, and as I pointed in Lemire’s relaunch of Bloodshot in Bloodshot Reborn #1 the same occurs. I think in all cases thus far we’ve shown each have their own adventures ahead, each have their own potential rogue galleries, and each can stand alone.
Ninjak is a clean book.

Ninjak #3

The boots are apt because Ninjak #3 is in movement almost the entire issue. It’s practically all battle between Colin and Roku, who definitely is becoming this character I can see as a constant rival for him. The hair thing is still kind of weird but I guess it gives her that one unique quality.

I mentioned in my review of Dead Drop #1 that I appreciated that issue because it put into focus that VALIANT books, even the ones I most love, are awfully talky. There’s a lot of captions.

I mean A LOT.

And I guess there is method involved, offering us a look inside Colin processing even while literally having no ground to walk on, and fighting someone who looks to at least be his equal. I get that but I also understand visual storytelling and I feel like I could get a lot of this by simply seeing it. Mann might not be a top shelf storyteller but he draws with clarity.

Take Batman, I understand that not only is he a operative of the highest order but I also know he’s incredibly wealthy. For instance, I assume his grappling hook is better than mine, further, I don’t think it’s a crazy assumption that anyone who has need of something like a grappling hook at the job buys one that works really well. Seems like a smart buy.

ninjak valiant comics

When I read Ninjak though and reflect on past issues, particularly his flashback scenes, I think I either get it, or invented a reason in my head that’s part of my VALIANT is perfect protocol. Colin is playing a game. This is a kid that because of his upbringing is kind of a weirdo, but not only that, acts on it. He sets traps for his butler, a kind of bizarro and potentially sadistic and disturbing Cato/Clouseau relationship. He lives in castle, he has cool toys and gadgets which he upgrades and has bios for, he is transfixed by martial arts movies — Magnum PI is a fantasy for some, but not if you’re Colin who can have that life, not so much. He has to be somewhere at a certain time to beat a level — it’s as if he’s playing a game. He is headed toward the boss. He’s in a story. Kindt even added a story piece in the last issue of Ninjak.

If you ever read Kurt Busiek’s Ninjak, the game aspect was a real thing.

I used to have a recurring dream where I could fly.

Almost.

I would be able to take these big, leaping jumps… and then I’d have to will myself into the air… but I could never do it.

There’s also a scene with Colin as a kid hunting around his estate, hiding from Alain, which reminded me of a scene in Divinity #3 when Abrams placed the individual members Unity in their own little time/reality bubbles and Ninjak was the most well adjusted. Just another level for Colin.

The backup story struck me as a bit telegraphed but it was probably purposeful, and as usual there are tips to the current story (the quote above). I suspect they will be memories showing us how he became as competent as he is, as well as how flawed he is, and how flawed he would have to be to be who he is. He has to break rules to have intimacy.

Still, Ninjak is pretty entertaining and I’m left wanting to see him achieve new stages — this game apparently has 7 levels — and new Weaponeer bosses.

I’m not sure what’s up next, I’d assume Kannon would need Roku and Ninjak to team-up (Co-Op?) in a power play of his own, but I’m guessing people who read future solicitations would know more than me. We ended on a cutscene.

Ninjak #4

This won’t be a review and you will learn nothing about what occurs in this issue from me. In the recent past I have gone on at length raving about Matt Kindt and Trevor Hairsine’s work on Divinity for VALIANT. I, more often than not, gleefully stumble trying to find the nature of and meaning of a new god in a new comic book (and possible future cinematic) universe, both in their initial stages of existing. Ninjak #4 though? I don’t even want to talk about this issue. And I really won’t. Not because of the same reason I didn’t talk about Dead Drop #2. I loved this, and you have to experience it.

You won’t be able to telegraph it.

The ending of the last issue left us with that was more or less a standard cliffhanger. We get our fight between two characters for most of the issue culminating in a moment of truth. It was Daredevil battling Elektra, getting away, and still finding out the Kingspin was a step ahead. Not only that… The Kingspin is not a throw away character that I might have been led to believe at first, merely the initial early level boss in a Weaponeer game, though he may still be that. The Daredevil analogy is one I found hard to ignore because it went from a Miller story to kind of a Noncenti story. On the surface, to the unlearned, people may think of that as a negative trajectory, but for people who do know, Noncenti brought something that still stands as pretty special even in the shadow of Miller.

Kindt, with art by group consisting of Juan Jose Ryp, Clay Mann, & Marguerite Sauvage, took a comic I was enjoying well enough already, this solo & seemingly direct, more personal, story and turned it, in a single issue, into a book that not only offers us a front row seat of the origin of what might be an archenemy, but also weaves it into the tapestry of the VALIANT universe, with Kindt wielding and mixing VALIANT’s genre diversity as threads. It echoes other stories you’ve read in previous Ninjak backstories, but it’s just an echo, just something in your head as you stay committed to what’s going on in the issue you area reading because you can’t believe where it’s going, or rather, where this came from.

Before comic book prices became this constantly live updated stat that it is today that shared space with my sportscenter stats brain I used to flip through print comic book price guides, and among the few notations you had, a secondary one to “1st appearance” was “o:”, for origin. It’s not too important today as comic book prices aren’t really associated with story or content but it’s what I thought of as I read Ninjak #4, which gave me this throwback concept even as the story went next level, both going above and beyond, and coming from the depths of a personal hell. Origins of secondary characters are rare just because of the comic climate.

First, rarely is a comic universe in development, meaning you don’t get many opportunities to see the initial population of one. VALIANT has been back for a few years now, but mostly we’ve seen the characters we knew from ’90s reinterpreted. Second, top creators either through wisdom or a lack confidence in themselves as creators probably don’t share their best ideas for non-creator owned assets.

This means you will often get great characters and supporting cast in single books, but rarely will you get more, rarely will the toys play with each other on the same field. VALIANT has great creators who even if giving us their B-effort, it’s still great. Roku, Mary-Maria, Abram Adams — boss players in boss books.

Matt Kindt did something that I think is kind of spectacular here. First, he took us on a journey nobody could fathom from the previous issue’s conclusion, turning a very sweet and perfectly enjoyable even if still familiar espionage story into a supernatural semi-epic tale.

He set up a possible archnemesis and turned the aforementioned Kannon from what could have been just a step in a story, into a story himself. These characters whose names aren’t the title of the book have history, they are interesting, and they become subject to reader questions and curiosity. We leave this issue lookong forward to Ninjak #5, but asking questions about Roku and Kannon.

Back when I did my piece on the new faces to look out for in VALIANT movies we didn’t have Ninjak out yet, otherwise Roku would have definitely made the list. A few issues in and we now have VALIANT’s favorite ginger with a solo cover appearance in Ninjak #4, dual guns cross her heart. Roku has been very prominent from jump, being Colin’s target from the very first issue of Matt Kindt’s relaunch of Ninjak, where I immediately liked her though I thought the hair thing was a little odd.

Kindt could have stayed with that, allowing the character to have this one aspect of flavor in an otherwise grounded world, but instead doubled down, and crossed her and Kannon’s path with two of the most extra players in the VALIANT universe plus more. Not enough? Beyond offering us bits of history of the Ninjak cast, I think he also gives us the Harbinger #1 prequel.

All of that but Ninjak is not forgotten. Even just the term Ninjak has obvious Japanese connotations, but as a half-japanese/half-amazing reader I’ve always puzzled over the connection with Colin, even though we’ve had the ever popular Wolverine or Snake Eyes, other gaijin who has extensive ties to the motherland.

When I first read Ninjak #1 I was aware of Kindt’s name choice of Kannon and assumed he might be more than he seemed, and obviously Roku is a basic Japanese term, so I love the mythology Kindt is spinning. Not just regarding the supernatural aspect, the Oni, and possibly a Noppera-bō (though Roku seems to call that last one an Oni as well), but of Colin himself. Roku accuses Colin, and I don’t think she means from the first issue.

She recognizes him.

He promotes her memories to flood back to her. She smells him like she did the demon. We now know where Roku came from, or at least what she perceives of what she came from, how does Colin fit into that? We learn Roku’s full name, or at least the one she chose for herself, and it is also related to Japanese or asian folklore. There is a duality here because I want to call Roku many things, the daughter of the demon, the Darque Knight, or something similar but she actually kills her own demons. She consumes them. She descended and then climbed back up.

What also struck me was that while writers and artists were creating this labyrinth of a literary back story was what was literally being shown without comment because of the story. Roku is an impossibly hot redhead, with that good hair, who is walking around in literal bondage to pass a test given to her by a bunch of dudes. And coming out of that… VALIANT has a leading lady.

More Roku. Now.

Ninjak #5

Coming off the fantastic twist, expansion, and elevation of the Ninjak series that was last issue’s glorious Roku origin, Matt Kindt and Clay Mann manage to bring us back while not disappointing, shifting back into gear to our confrontation with uber read headed assassin and VALIANT’s E. Honda, Kannon, and Ninjak’s mission to infiltrate Weaponeer. I need this because the Ninjak I most recently saw, in VALIANT’s Book of the Death #1, was really underwhelming. Back to that in a moment.

I don’t have a tremendous amount to say about the issue because while there is definitely revelation, it’s such a seamless continuation of the end of Ninjak #3 you find yourself kind of just riding with it… maybe in the sweet Ninjakmobile that belongs to Colin’s parents, that resembles Ninjak’s colors, especially his classic duds. Also, I just read it once while I had a few minutes in-between planes.

I think Batman comparisons are pretty common and easy when it comes to Ninjak but we might actually be seeing Damian. This is not a kid motivated by, at least at first, some tragedy, he’s a bored kid with limitless resources left alone by his parents looking for shit to do. Where Batman was created out of necessity to cope, Ninjak feels more and more like, and I’ve mentioned this before, still playing out a fantasy. One that went away from childish fantasy tropes to what usually comes next — we want to be Bond. A ninja Bond. After that?

Maybe death cults?

His mom looks like Baroness from G.I. Joe, so much so I started googling if Destro ever unmasked because I wanted to see if he looked like Ninjak’s pops, who we also meet in this issue. I want to see this Ninjak’s sleeves rolled up because I’m almost positive both he, Roku and maybe even Kannon have the same Arashikage ink. At the very least we are made to feel there is a connection between all three of them.

Not only do we meet them but apparently Ninjak’s parents are spies or agents of some sort, perhaps part of or were against Weaponeer, which would explain Ninjak’s almost obsession with not only infiltrating Weaponeer but also marking to later eliminate anyone associated with them. They were rich as hell. Ninjak does not want to tell Kannon or Roku who he is which, sure, makes sense just in general, but the emphasis on them asking and him not wanting to reply makes me feel like maybe Kannon would know his parents. Ninjak knows these guys or at least had similar training, perhaps at a different sect of the same organization, because we know Ninjak himself has stated he has trained with an undead monk (from Kindt’s Divinity #3). I’m guessing that’s a pretty exclusive club.

There’s also the possibility that Colin’s scent is familiar because they know his family and that Colin might have learned from them? This may explain was Roku and Kannon’s style are familiar to him, and vice versa, but not quite. An incomplete training or one that evolved later in life? It’s also possible that there is both a Kannon and Roku connection that are separate from each other, especially if you are into the Roku is Angeline (from the previous back-up stories) camp — Roku used to be blonde pre-Darque, and has green eyes.

It’s just hard for me to believe that Colin doesn’t recognize here, especially when we see in the backstory that it becomes his mission to avenge her. I’m also not sure why Roku was called off and why that doesn’t seem to be much of a concern to Colin, though Kindt typically picks up questions like this in following issues.

I keep going back to this Shadow Seven that apparently runs Weaponeer. In solicitations they are described as “shinobi” which suggest they might have similar general training we see in Ninjak, Roku, and Kannon. The title of my review of Ninjak #4 was “Darque Knight Rises”, and we know that Master Darque is not only primed to be significant in VALIANT’s Book of Death but also is significant to Roku’s origin and thus the Shadow Seven.

If Ninjak has had similar training I wonder if someone is pulling his strings without him knowing even as we are led to believe he’s in control. I don’t know if I should write-off the horrible characterization of Ninjak in Book of Death #1 to Venditti not being familiar with the character or character dynamic, or maybe he just simply needed that odd moment to move the story, but we do know Darque wants Tama and Gilad done away with.

I’m also looking at the puzzle Colin breaks to get into his parent’s secret stash. It’s incomplete wording in the comic but I wonder if it says “fides omnia vincit”, which I think should be “omnia vincit fides”, but roughly means faith conquers all. It’s also hard to ignore that Matt Kindt probably has read the original Ninjak run from VALIANT and the twist involving Weaponeer, which was that Colin was Weaponeer #1.

I also have this nagging feeling that with Darque, Shadowman seems primed to return in a big way, and possibly be in the way of several VALIANT characters. We saw him appear in the collage of future paths for Bloodshot in the VALIANT FCBD story (old school version), and he’s a character you need to bring back in the action, and I wonder if we will see him in Ninjak or Book of the Death, hunting Gilad.

There’s been an alarming, perhaps too purposeful feeling, absence of Shadowman news of any sort, excluding a Shadowman character in one panel of the Book of Death #1, fighting on the side of Gilad and the heroes. You couple that with VALIANT letting out the Master Darque involvement in Book of Death really early, and we might see Shadowman. If nothing else, Book of Death, feels like it could be a great spot to reboot Shadowman because VALIANT left that character a hot mess and I love me some Shadowman.

I really, really, really, loved last month’s issue, my favorite comic with Ninjak as the title ever, and one of the handful of best VALIANT comics I’ve read. I love the different art styles on it (and Juan Jose Ryp’s work in Legends of the Geomancer might be my favorite art in the new VALIANT universe period) but equally I really love that Clay Mann is the status quo artist on the title. He’s clean, everything clear, it feels like a mainstream comic book. He even gave Colin a serious awesome chain to floss that he wears on the train (that must have got stolen because it was absent in the very next panel).

Oh, and we see the use of a dead drop here, but I simply can’t do it, VALIANT. Dead Drop #2 was a series killer for me. It was almost a universe destroyer. Let’s not do that again.

Ever.