Book of Death: The Fall of Ninjak #1

One hundred years in the future, multiple calamities have laid waste to portions of the world, but Ninjak has survived them all in Matt Kindt and Trevor Hairsine's "Book of Death: The Fall of Ninjak" #1. As one would expect from this comic's title, Kindt and Hairsine's issue is a rather somber affair, with a physically and emotionally changed Ninjak trying to live a solitary and reclusive life in the ruins of his old home. There's another familiar face still around in the Valiant Universe, though, and it's this encounter that Kindt uses to reveal some future history as well as to chronicle Ninjak's final battle in a bleak but nonetheless intriguing one-shot.

Hairsine's opening aerial view of an obliterated city zooms in on a radically altered and aged Ninjak, seamlessly combining with Kindt's narrative and revealing some of the cataclysmic events over the past century, which provides an overall compelling introduction. The second page is a striking full page illustration of a ravaged but intact Ninjak in a meditative pose that culminates the effects of the past hundred years on the character.

Inker Ryan Winn uses a rougher line texture to delineate Hairsine's pencils, giving these pages -- as well as the entirety of the issue -- a fittingly weathered and apocalyptic kind of look. The greys and browns of a scorched world dominate Allen Passalaqua's color palette, at least until Ninjak takes a stand against another character who has taken the form of Livewire but is actually the construct of another character referred to in this story. At this point, the purple colors of Ninjak's more familiar costume come into play, as do other brighter tones during the climactic battle.

Other more recent flashbacks further reveal the events that led to Ninjak's situation a century from now. One shows some insight into what became of Toyo Harada and how his and Livewire's lives became intertwined, and another reveals the moment that Ninjak was left alone in this world. Much of the fascination of Kindt's plot is past events that are mentioned only in passing but are the seeds of potentially intriguing future storylines. One peek into past events shows the disappearance of another character, although the specific reasons for said disappearance aren't made all that clear.

Ultimately, Ninjak's final fight is heroic, but Kindt doesn't clearly establish that Ninjak is fighting for the right side. His failure and literal fall make for a powerful moment, but one that's diminished somewhat because the final pages -- as gorgeously illustrated by Hairsine, Winn and Passalaqua -- evoke a sense of triumph of what he was fighting against, and the beautiful scene doesn't necessarily come across as anything malicious. While Ninjak believes himself to be in the right, nothing within Kindt's story confirms that, and what is shown actually indicates otherwise, which somewhat diminishes the poignancy of his demise.

"Book of Death: The Fall of Ninjak" #1 works nicely as a preview of things that might come to pass in the Valiant Universe, but -- as a supposed final fate for Ninjak -- it falls just a little bit short.

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