Taking a set of bit players from one series and spinning them off into their own title is a hazardous proposition at the best of times. When the characters in question only really led with some schtick and didn’t delve into anything deeper, that means the person bringing them into their own title doesn’t have much to work with but they can also go anywhere they like. This winding and strange path only adds twists by having Garth Ennis’ name in the title yet not in the credits. “The Ninjettes” spun out from “Jennifer Blood,” which Ennis created and wrote, but which Al Ewing now writes. Ewing has his work cut out for him and he makes his choices. He plays to the crowd that want ‘aw, cool’ moments and generally delivers. You can scratch all you want, however, but you won’t find anything deeper.
The opening sequence shows a female assassin taking down a very bad man using equally bad measures. It’s a gloriously depraved moment — and it even ties into the larger narrative further down the line — but it still feels like a moment to shock more than truthfully entertain. Within pages, the statement of intent is thrown down. You will either love it or hate it. You have to appreciate a comic that is so boldly up front about showing its true self. This comic is an unashamed gorefest. Scenes are pinned together around moments of schlock to shock.
There’s a central story in motion here of girls wanting to play at a bad girls game. This might become a metaphorical journey of the young fangirls who want to show the strength of their four color idols and experience growth in their life while overcoming adversity. This may occur, but what seems more likely to appear on these pages are young boy fantasies of powerful women who still want to show cleavage at every chance. “The Ninjettes” isn’t about empowerment, it’s about exploitation. This is new age Grindhouse but without half of the messages of the 70s.
Eman Casallos is adept at recreating the absurd violence that can only occur with the aid of comics physics. Heads are sliced off, bodies bisected, and a nosy bike enthusiast gets stuffed in a bin (a moment that’s purely silly and yet ultimately hilarious). Casallos can handle the carnage; it’s just the female protagonists who mete it out that form his greatest problem. Anatomy is as oversold as the bloodshed. If you’re someone who likes females treated respectfully with a pencil then perhaps this comic isn’t for you. In fact, this comic isn’t for you, and so Casallos is most likely doing the very best service for this book by showing bulging breasts through low cut and tight leather ensembles.
“The Ninjettes” is a very light concept. There is some characterization on display but mostly the pages build from one sick moment to the next, including all the taut leather-clad demureness and perking you can handle. If you are a fan of “Jennifer Blood” then this might scratch an itch for you. But it doesn’t feel as well executed as Ewing’s issues on the original series. As a debut, this book has shown its most complacently pandering side and asked you to love it.