Words and Art: Jeff Parker and Javier Pulido
Letters: Dave Sharpe with Javier Pulido
If you are at all familiar with comics, I only need to shout that name from the rooftops like your average soccer commentator and that would be the entire review right there. However, that would forsake the best opportunity I’ll ever have to celebrate why artist Javier Pulido is so great.
Through poppy colors and effective cartooning tricks, artist Javier Pulido, with co-creator Jeff Parker, takes a simple spy story and enhances it through.
Ninjak is a Valiant Comics character created by Mark Moretti and Joe Quesada in 1993 and another resident in the surprisingly active genre of “White Guy Appropriating Asian Aesthetics.” Colin King, the wealthy son of two British Intelligence officers, underwent intense training to join the secret ninja operative program of MI-6 because James Bond has to be a weeaboo as well as an alcoholic.
Problematic genre trappings aside, Pulido and Parker put that lore to the back end, quickly establishing a premise where Ninjak has nothing but his swords and wits when his spy identity is exposed to the world.
The first scene immediately shows us the artist’s skills in storytelling. A meeting between two old guys in a pub turns into a brain-scanning sequence told through split faces and an immediate color shift. Instead of making things literal, Pulido chooses to consistently ground us into a single place, a London pub constructed through muted red colors, before two new and younger characters enter. Through contrasted coloring, the reader immediately knows that these two characters are “bad guys” as their entire bodies are lighter, clashing with the muted red colors of the pub.
It is when these two new characters become the focus of this scene that the brain-scanning occurs and readers are hooked into the story through visuals instead of standalone word balloons.
The magic of Javier Pulido isn’t just that his mode of storytelling is unconventional. His storytelling is always beautiful to look at, combining Steranko graphics with Hernandez Bros. cartooning. The shades of turquoise, bright yellow eyes, and green expressions of horror make for an effective double shade spread, especially with the simple line-work.
The craft on display is undeniable and easily elevates what would have been a more standard and over-rendered page in different hands.
Another scene that showcases Pulido’s assured choices and bold style is the next scene, which takes place in Istanbul.
From the reds of Britain, we immediately transition to the oranges and yellows of the Middle East through a single page turn. We follow a spy named Myna, whose primary function is to introduce us to the titular character and the world, providing a backstory for new readers as she watches a journalist get attacked by thugs. The smallness of the journalist contrasted with the bigness of the approaching thugs easily communicates what is happening, even without words.
My favorite sequence on the first thought is when the thug activates a saw blade. The lines on the blade in the first panel disappear as the blade in the next panel is activated and becomes a full circle with lighter colors. The lighter colors assist with the pop and rise of the threat level. The interesting “zZZZHHZZ” sound effect only enhances the panel.
With Pulido, simplicity is powerful, and the fight that happens when Ninjak enters the scene is even more proof of that. Extra props must also be given to the beautiful shade of purple that Pulido chooses for Ninjak’s design.
Writer Jeff Parker is no slouch either, providing snappy dialogue and an overall sense of fun that is usually absent in the modern spy genre. The quick look we have at the dynamic between the down-on-her-luck Myna and the quippy Ninjak proves that any reader is going to have a good time.
Overall, NINJAK #1 is a great showcase for the storytelling talents of Pulido, and I highly recommend it if you want to see what makes comics such a unique medium.
After reading it and immersing yourself in the visuals and action, there is only one word that should be on your mind.
Shout it like a soccer commentator to make it more fun.