Writer: B. Clay Moore
Artist: Fernando Dagnino
One relatively recent aspect of Valiant’s continuity that really resonated with me was the advent of the Ninja Programme. Basically, it’s a division of British intelligence agency MI6 created for the sole purpose of creating super-spies. Based on the teachings of a corrupt ninja warrior called The Jonin, the Ninja Programme’s been producing these super-spies from the first World Wars to the modern-day. Each one is codenamed alphabetically, and premier Valiant hero Colin King AKA Ninjak (Ninja-K, har har) is the Programme’s latest such assassin. With the help of a rogue Ninja-C, Ninjak was able to shut down the Programme; but many of the Programme’s former agents are still out there.
And someone is killing them.
That’s the premise Killers’ first issue gives us, and it wastes no time in jumping right into things, as we’re treated to masked assassins attacking the home of the defected Desdemona Rush (Ninja-G) right from the very beginning.
The action, by the way, is great. One thing I really can’t stand is bad fight scenes in an action comic. You’ll recognize them from the telltale signs of poor panel layout and the fact that every panel has the participants in completely different poses, in completely different locations, with no explanation as to how they got there.
Killers, thankfully, doesn’t do this. Thanks to [artist]’s art, the individual battles here feel completely organic, and each action beat flows smoothly into the next. The bodies involved move and flow naturally. If I wanted to really be charitable, the wording I might use is “they’re more like snippets of John Wick storyboards than fights in a comic book”; in the best way possible, naturally.
We’re also introduced to some new characters. One is in Shuriken, a mysterious and strangely knowledgeable little girl who claims to be the Jonin’s daughter. The other is Roger Thorpe, the former Ninja-J: a globetrotting bohemian who can use mystical phrases to increase his strength and durability in combat and may have a hidden agenda of his own. I’m reminded of when Ninja-K had been announced, for which Valiant released art promos of character designs. These designs included a number of Ninja Programme operatives, many of which were alluded to or appeared in the series, but even fewer characters actually participated in the plot. This left many of these strange characters almost completely unexplored, and the inclusion of additional Ninjas here may be an indicator that this will change. It might be a bit of a stretch, and certainly wishful thinking, but I’m reasonably optimistic about it.
Killers #1 isn’t without its own share of problems, however. As the first issue of a series building off of a prior story, it has a somewhat difficult job of needing to be accessible both to new readers and to older ones. It goes about this in a somewhat shaky way. For example, the exposition is relegated to overly wordy monologue. Counteracting this are the new plot-relevant elements introduced, and there’s just barely enough space to include them. I understand the options for pulling this off are limited, especially for an action comic, but the negative effects can often be debilitating. You can end up with a first issue that feels too short because it spent too much time explaining its premise. Killers doesn’t quite fall into this, but it leaves the issue feeling almost rushed.
Also, sorry, Ninjak fans: no Colin King in this one. He’s bound to be involved eventually—how can he not?—but the meat of the plot in #1 revolves exclusively around Ninjas G and J.
A decent, action-packed start to a promising series. Might be a bit too mired in exposition, but this is to be expected. Looking forward to more.