June 15, 2012

The Compost Pile

Irrational Excitement for Ninjak

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I don’t understand it.

I see all the previews for Ninjak showing up in X-O Manowar #5, and I’m excited.

Really excited.

X-O Manowar 5 Cover with Ninjak

X-O Manowar #5 Cover, Enter: Ninjak

I’m looking forward to seeing Ninjak appear in X-O Manowar #5 as much as I am to read Bloodshot #1 next month. Maybe even more so. I never like Ninjak much though, so this is a little odd.

Ninjak Sucked

In our review of Ninjak in Episode 52 of the OTV Podcast, I wasn’t too thrilled about the series. The concept is a mashup of James Bond and a ninja, two generic action tropes, in an all-too-generic and uninteresting way.

The Classic Ninjak comic tried to have stylized writing and visual look, but aside from some amazing covers, it completely failed. The stories were difficult to follow, and the art wallowed in the excesses of the 90s, the stylization resulted in under-performing stories.

It wasn’t until Abnett and Lanning came on to the title that it started to get interesting, when they developed a legacy of secret government projects and intrigue, of which Ninjak was just a part. Even then, it didn’t turn around into something great, it was just not bad.

When I think of the hierarchy of the Classic titles, and the Valiant characters, Ninjak isn’t near the top. In fact, It is easier to list the titles worse than Ninjak than the titles better than it. Armorines, H.A.R.D.Corps, Geomancer, and Psi-Lords come to mind, that’s about it. The worst of the worst.

The Ninjak we deserve

So why, when I saw the teasers for Ninjak, and the covers for X-O Manowar 5 and 6, did I think it was the best thing since sliced nanites?

I saw the preview, then I saw the images of Ninjak, and they looked good. Really good. Like the ninja badass that Ninjak always should have been. It’s a Ninjak that (apparently) can go head to head with the X-O armor. That sounds pretty darn cool.

In X-O Manowar #5 we are presumably going to find Aric adjusting to the modern world, and immediately going up against another big gun of the universe. We’re not just going to be seeing X-O Manowar’s world, we’re going to be seeing the entire Valiant Comics world.

I think that’s why this announcement excited me so much.

The larger Valiant Universe

There seemed to be a vision behind the Classic Valiant universe. Each of the titles was exciting and fun, and when read together, they told a larger story, the story of the Valiant Universe.

In the first year or so, each of the titles developed their characters, and also established each of those characters places within the larger tapestry. This tapestry was woven into the Unity crossover, and once it was complete, it was apparent how all of the titles had been subtley (or not so subtley) leading to that larger event.

After Unity, Rai #0 was released, and told us what the story of the Valiant Universe was going to be. For the next several years, the Valiant Universe was going to be about the ascention of Master Darque, and his eventual defeat in 1999. After Darque is defeated, the greater threat of the Corporate Wars would begin.

We didn’t get to see that tapestry finished. Instead the Valiant Universe collided into the business interests of Acclaim, leaving the Valiant Universe as broken wreckage. The promise was there, however, and those first few years of Valiant Comics are what made me, and many others, fans of this comics universe.

Return to Form

The reason I am so excited about Ninjak is that it reminds me of how I felt about Valiant Comics when I was 13 years old, when I rode my bike to the comic shop every week to buy Eternal Warrior, Solar, Archer & Armstrong, Shadowman, Harbinger, H.A.R.D.Corps, Bloodshot, Magnus, Rai, etc.

I was reminded of those classic Valiant comics, where new characters would show up in a title, and we would find out how each character fit into the overall universe, and what part they played in the larger story.

This announcement made me feel like X-O Manowar isn’t just going to be a comic about a man from the past with battle armor from the future. It is also going to be a comic about the Valiant Universe, and where Aric fits into that world, and how that world reacts to, and is effected by our favorite Visigoth.

When I see that Ninjak is coming to the Valiant Universe, I don’t just see the return of the international playboy/ninja man of mystery, I see the return of the Valiant Universe as a whole.

And now 20 years later, I feel the same excitement that I did for Valiant 20 years ago.


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