Ninjak vol. 2 #4
Acclaim Comics/Valiant Heroes (June, 1997)“Backstory” WRITER: Kurt Busiek PENCILER: Neil Vokes INKER: Mike Avon Deming COLORING: Atomic Paintbrush LETTERING: Comicraft ASSISTANT EDITOR: Alex Glass EDITOR: Jeff Gomez
Using the money from the mall appearance, Denny travels to Maine to meet the creator of the Ninjak game. He’s a centuries-old monk, part of an order charged with preparing for the return of an ancient sorcerer named Akuma. As the order dried up, the monk came to America, using various games (board and RPG, as fits the time period) hoping to find the right champion. It was the video game that offered a wide-enough audience to find the right person to become the receptacle of the order’s skills and knowledge. Then the Dark Dozen shows up, now up to seven with two new additions, Wisplash (who uses solid smoke tendrils) and Golgoth (a silent brute). The monk is killed but leads Ninjak to a temple Obi-Wan style to get the full power he needs to beat the Dark Dozen, and then returns home…where thanks to lacking a good cover story and skipping school due to the danger involved with civilians, is in a lot of trouble with his mom.
What they got right: This is actually a pretty cool origin for this version of Ninjak, borrowing an element from The Last Starfighter granted but that’s becoming a sub-trope of the chosen one hero’s journey. And Busiek being Busiek he doesn’t forget the human factor of Denny’s family. SPOILER: Next issue Denny’s grounded. Also, Akuma (possibly through Zeer) is using suspension of disbelief in place belief in magic to create the Dark Dozen. That’s a unique angle.
What they got wrong: As cool as a name like “Dark Dozen” is, that’s a few too many levels for a video game of the time. However, my problem is that Wisplash and Golgoth don’t get as good an introduction as the others. The debut of the game villains is starting to feel rushed as he faces more than one at a time to get everybody in. Also, we get a quick cameo from Colin King when Denny is rushing to his plane. Fans of the original take on Ninjak might not like this version, and now we have a Colin King (who is the assassin Ninjak in the original and current continuities) who isn’t Ninjak in a brief cameo. (Although he will play a part later in this version. Remember that wedding going on?) Knowing comic fans as I do they must have been fit to be tied.
Recommendation: Again, if you have no connection to the regular Ninjak you may well enjoy this series. Even then it’s worth a look with an open mind.