Singles Going Steady is Comics Bulletin’s weekly review roundup.
Ninjak #19 (Valiant Entertainment)
(W) Matt Kindt, (A) Khari Evans & Andres Guinaldo, (C) Ulises Arreola & Chris Sotomayor, (L) Dave Sharpe
Gilad, the Eternal Warrior, is one of the pillars of the Valiant Universe. Stoic, steadfast, and honorable, he is one of the most level-headed characters in the publisher’s pantheon. So leave it to Matt Kindt to make him the comic relief in Ninjak #19, as he and Colin King go dimension-hopping to chase down their target, Fakir, in this second chapter of “The Fist and the Steel.”
The pairing of Ninjak with the Eternal Warrior makes for a classic buddy-cop dynamic, if inverted. Even though the former is witty and charismatic, it is the latter’s awestruck reactions and physicality that is the source of most of this issue’s humor. In fact, the ability of this title to shift from wacky buddy-cop adventure to spy thriller is one of its strongest qualities.
Just as entertaining as the protagonist’s banter is the issue’s climactic battle with Fakir, as well as the issue’s revelation. Japanese culture has played heavily into Kindt’s Valiant work, particularly with titles like Rai. Ninjak has mostly relied on popular tropes, but the script hints at a deeper dive into Japanese mythology in the coming issues.
Both art teams for the main feature (Khari Evans and Ulises Arreola) and backup (Andres Guinaldo and Chris Sotomayor) deliver strong performances. Evans takes advantage of the story arc’s surreal elements to deliver fascinating and unique visuals. However, as the issue draws to its close, his art runs out of steam, resulting in sparse backgrounds and an increased reliance on Arreola’s consistently good colors. Guinaldo and Sotomayor fare better overall, thanks largely to the smaller page count. On the whole, there is very little to complain about. Month after month, Ninjak proves itself to be one of the most satisfying titles available.
— Daniel Gehen
Rise of the Black Flame #1 (Dark Horse Comics)
(W) Mike Mignola and Chris Roberson (A) Christopher Mitten (C) Dave Stewart (L) Clem Robins
The Mignolaverse has been abiding in comics for over two decades. It’s large amount of spinoffs reiterate how it is one of the best things to come out of Dark Horse Comics. With Rise of the Black Flame #1, Mike Mignola (Hellboy) and Chris Roberson (iZombie, House of Mystery) present us with the origin story of one of the most recurring and sinister villains in this universe. In this debut issue, they present readers with new characters and an interesting way of introducing the Black Flame without actually having him present.
While the comic is of the adventure/horror genre, the pacing of this issue is a necessary slow burn. Young girls are being kidnapped by figures in black hoods, and two investigators suspect a dangerous cult is involved. The evil endeavors of the Black Flame have already been received by many Hellboy fans, and the idea here is to frame an understanding around his origin. Since the storytelling with the investigation is efficient, action is tastefully limited in this first issue.
Artist Christopher Mitten (30 Days of Night) utilizes inking techniques similar to Mignola’s that make him an ideal fit for the series. Mitten makes sure readers are not disappointed with the unbalanced ratio of conversation to action by focusing on expressions and body language. The consideration of how different gestural positions tell the story make the characters believable. The setting changes frequently, and Mitten gives wonderful attention to the backgrounds by varied line depth and shading that makes them all unique. Dave Stewart (The Walking Dead covers #115-present) fills the pages with color in true Hellboy fashion. There are many panels where flashbacks are represented through sepia or overall darker hues.
Fans get a little taste of previous Black Flame appearances with a few throwback panels in the first few pages, and new readers are being led into the beginning of some interesting story arcs. Anything by Mike Mignola is worth picking up; nonetheless, the rest of the contributors give hope to the 5 issue miniseries that it will live up to its preceding Hellboy features.
— Kristopher Grey