Valiant’s taking us a hundred years into the future in Book of Death: Fall of Ninjak where (as you can expect) things done changed. That applies especially to our man Ninjak, who’s looking and acting… a lot different a century from now.
Is this really Ninjak’s final ride? Is it good?
Book of Death: The Fall of Ninjak #1 (Valiant Entertainment)
Ninjak’s holed up in the cobbled remnants of a castle in Leeds, England. He’s balder. He’s older. He’s without his gadgets. He’s lived the life of an ascetic monk for decades. He’s missing an arm. And despite all of that, he’s badder than ever.
The entirety of Book of Death: The Fall of Ninjak spans only a few minutes of conversation and a brief battle, but that makes it no less poignant. A familiar figure from Ninjak’s past swings by his secluded crib and from there writer Matt Kindt supplies us with plenty of expository info concerning Ninjak’s life and the Valiant Universe altogether. Kindt’s dialogue and prose in this issue are spot-on and perfectly capture the mood of the “last stand” narrative.
I’ve seen reviews that disparage Book of Death: The Fall of Ninjak for having a lack of tension during Ninjak’s final encounter on account of his foreknowledge of the villain’s master plan and his seeming disregard for his own life through martyrish behavior, but I disagree — that’s not the point of this issue.
We’re not here to wonder “Will Colin save the day?” or watch him pursue the mustache-twirling villain and thwart their doomsday device in formulaic fashion; the crux of this issue is the significance of Ninjak’s decision itself; the fact that despite all his preparation and skill, he knows he won’t be coming back. Though the flashbacks are a little contrived, they show that Colin is a man who has lived his life. A long, full life. He’s gone from a suave, debonair James Bond Jr. looking ass to David Carradine from Kung Fu. He’s forged enduring friendships of mutual respect. He’s had friends become enemies. He’s passed his knowledge to others. He’s seen some shit. And he knows, unlike Frank Miller’s Bruce Wayne, that yes, this would be a good death.
And that’s what makes this issue so emotionally resonant. I’m not disappointed that we didn’t get some ultimate battle of epic proportions where Ninjak went down fighting hundreds of four-armed Kintaro-clones or grappled with Harada on an American Gladiators pedestal suspended miles above the earth — but because we got something poetic. As Ninjak makes his journey of self-sacrifice, remembering his life, he reminds me of some storied cowboy riding to his death, passing through the shadows of trees he’d never pass again.
He had resolved himself to ride on for he could not turn back and the world that day was as lovely as any day that ever was and he was riding to his death. — Child of God, McCarthy
Is It Good?
A must-read for any Ninjak fan or anyone looking for a tale of true heroism. The character is at his most courageous, disciplined, admirable and dare I say likeable? Recommended.