Robert Venditti continues his winning streak with X-O Manowar, his first monthly comic, by introducing yet another of Valiant’s excellent legacy characters. Ninjak, the tech-savvy, and exceptionally level-headed ninja, was such a fun addition to the already ridiculous adventure introduced in the series’ first volume: By the Sword. One might begin to wonder, though, why a character as strong as Ninjak didn’t just get his own series from the get go. ‘Enter: Ninjak’ covers issues 5-8 of the X-O Manowar run. Some spoilers follow.
X-O Manowar is the story of an ancient Visigoth warrior kidnapped from his time by an alien race known as the Vine who worship an incredbly powerful suit of seemingly sentient armor known as Shanhara. No Vine has ever been worthy of wearing the armor, but their prisoner Aric of Dacia was chosen to be worthy. He escaped and with his newly augmented abilities, thanks to the X-O armor, he goes back to earth… 1600 years later. As the bumbling barbarian he is, he ends up freaking out, and unthinkingly begins causing havoc in a modern day Rome.
Volume 2 goes into the fact that the Vine have been seeding humanity with their own kind for years, replacing human children with copies that are human in every way except thought. I liked the idea that they were instantly capable of transmitting thought via a mental projection towards each other around the world. In the search for the X-O armor (or Shanhara), a militant group of the Vine are heading to earth to destroy Aric of Dacia and to reclaim the armor. Some of the Vine seeds littered around earth have infiltrated high positions in the government. MI-6 is almost entirely overrun by Vine infiltrators, and it’s they who send Ninjak out to bring Aric in.
Although the comic does get a lot right in this short arc, it feels like X-O Manowar was quickly placed as a secondary character. The story does revolve around him and his beef with the Vine, but too much of it is told through the perspective of either Ninjak, or a Vine turncoat named Alexander. It doesn’t do the character, who is still in his infancy here in it’s rebooted second volume, much justice to relegate him as a secondary character. Also, how on earth does he communicate with the people in modern day earth? No matter where he seems to go on the planet he seems capable of understanding the common tongues of the time, with or without his armor.
Another thing the volume did little to address is how he’ll ever be seen as anything but a terrorist in the eyes of the people. Although he’s capable of winning over Ninjak, he’s taken more lives than he’s actually spoken with since he’s been back. Not a great rep.
I really liked some of the more subtle details in the art by Lee Garbett. The cover art was unfortunately either very generic action poses, or deliberately misleading shots that don’t actually deliver. Other than those small complaints, ‘Enter: Ninjak’ is another excellent story arc in the X-O Manowar reboot. In turn, the character is shaping up to be one of the best characters Valiant has to offer. I look forward to reading more of the run in future trades.
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