With Roku, writer Cullen Bunn aims to give Valiant's premiere proponent of prehensile hair a miniseries full of "John Wick style action". The first issue delivers on this premise, giving Roku multiple occasions to overcome waves of goons with her unique set of skills. While the dialogue and exposition feels stilted at times, Roku #1 manages to balance bloodshed with introducing Roku and setting up the plot for the rest of the run.
In the Valiant universe, Roku has previously served as an adversary to the mercenary Ninjak. In this series, however, Roku's the protagonist. Roku #1 opens with a blistering scene of the assassin taking down a gang in a Hong Kong nightclub. The action is drawn with vibrant energy and motion by artist Ramón Bachs. The contrasting precision and ferocity with which Roku is able to use her prehensile hair is put to the page remarkably throughout the issue. Colorist Stéphane Paitreau accentuates Bachs' art with an appropriate color palette, and the action sequences are frequent highlights of the issue.
The plot, while serviceable, does resort to tropes of action comics and films, which lessens the sparkle of the more animated segments. The story is further let down by some inconsistent facial rendering throughout and dialogue that feels inorganic at times. The manner in which Roku #1 reveals some of the character's other powers in the middle of the issue also seems to come out of nowhere.
While regular Valiant readers will not find this out of place, newcomers to Roku, or the universe as a whole, may be a little puzzled by the sudden inclusion of new abilities when they seem most convenient. Trying to introduce Roku in her entirety would have been impossible, and it is clear that this issue tries to balance accessibility and presenting Roku in the clearest, most complete manner possible. The set pieces that advance the plot try to explore Roku as a character, set up an interesting premise for the series as a whole, and check the necessary expositional boxes, to varying degrees of success.
Roku #1 is a visually engaging and enjoyable romp in the Valiant universe. While the story elements can feel boilerplate and cliché, when the creative team have Roku in her murderous element, she shines as an action protagonist. Whether she is a hero, villain, or something else remains to be seen, but Roku #1 gives fans a blood-splattered taste of what is in store for the character.
Roku #1 is available now.