When Valiant solicited an issue centered on past Ninja Programme member Ninja-H, I expected a flashback action tale. I had pictured a story that would be right at home in a 80’s VHS rental store. I’m so glad I was wrong.
The guest art team Larry Stroman & Ryan Winn joins regular writer Christos Gage, color artist Andrew Dalhouse and letterers A Larger World Studios for Ninja-K #10 to tell an action story I didn’t expect in this issue. We not only learn the history of the cyborg ninja operative, but we get an exploration of the character that I didn’t see coming but was more than welcome.
Ninja-H has been in suspended animation for the past thirty years, but the events of the past two arcs result in his awakening. The cyborg’s AI takes over and begins taking brutal revenge on MI-6, thinking the organization is compromised. Ninjak is called in to help and learned about his predecessor’s history.
As the two face off, Colin confronts Ninja-H with the truth. There is no AI. Ninja-H’s childhood and early experience in the Programme has left him with PTSD. To cope his mind created a separate personality, the AI, that he can compartmentalize the trauma of his actions with. In horror, H attempts suicide… only to be saved by his mechanical parts.
Now, first of all for someone reading this, on the fence of buying the issue – do it. It’s an impressive feat that this single issue not only examines PTSD in a science fiction world, but also tells an excellent action story. Gage’s script is in equal parts thoughtful, deep, and thrilling.
The twist of H’s secret was brilliantly done. The character to that point had been written as a tragic victim of the program, and then the knife twisted, revealing that he’d always been like this. The false AI was just his mind’s way of coping with the abuse, bullying and violence he’d experienced his entire life.
Stroman and Winn were a perfect choice to draw this issue. Stroman’s line is strongly evocative of the 80’s and 90’s, yet doesn’t feel dated. It helped entrench the story in that era without feeling derivative or flat.
The action is great here too. The fight between Colin and H is choreographed perfectly. Colin is physically outmatched, but he’s able to prevail through skill that Storman and Winn makes believable.
The design of H is also great. It calls back to science fiction movies of thirty years ago. It doesn’t feel realistic for the era, but it does feel like something the special effects and make-up effect artists of the time would have created.
Though I didn’t get what I expected, I was happy for that. This was a great story, and I think a perfect jumping on point for the Ninjak mythology as a whole.
Ninja-K #10 is available now from Valiant Comics both in-store and digitally!