NINJAK VS. THE VALIANT UNIVERSE #4 by Eliot Rahal, Joe Bennett, Bellardino Brabo, and Ulises Arreloa
Art
Characterization
Plot
Summary
NINJAK VS. THE VALIANT UNIVERSE #4 is a fast-paced thrill ride of the comic. While it isn't particularly deep in its characterization or events, the story is incredibly fun, the artistic team has crafted one of the most visually spectacular stories I have ever seen.
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NINJAK VS. THE VALIANT UNIVERSE #4 is the conclusion to a very strange premise. In the pages of this mini-series, readers have followed the comic book retelling of the upcoming YouTube series based on the popular Valiant comic book universe. Confusing, right? This series, though, has hit the nail square on the head.

While it hasn’t necessarily focused on character, the cool redesigns for most of the main cast and the amazing battle sequences have reminded me why I love Valiant Comics. This issue of the mini-series sees the end of this complex battle series. The heroes finally band together to take the fight to the evil ninja Roku. But does NINJAK VS. THE VALIANT UNIVERSE #4 live up to other entries in this series? Or does it fall aimlessly to the wayside?

NINJAK enters the Deadside and UNITY gets a big finish, This Week in Valiant!

Man vs. Hair

NINJAK VS. THE VALIANT UNIVERSE #4
Image courtesy of Valiant Entertainment.

I have been happily surprised by writer Eliot Rahal’s look at Ninjak through this series. By the nature of his very character, Colin King is a closed-off human being. Even in his solo series, readers tend to see events as if they came in a debriefing. We rarely get to delve into the character’s mind outside of flashbacks. Still, Rahal has managed to show readers a bit more of Ninjak’s personality in this series.

Even in the highly intense pace of this story, Rahal manages to make space for Ninjak’s thoughts on the matter. It is nice to see Ninjak having a personal vendetta for a change. This character typically just focuses on his given tasks, so seeing him pushed to do something on his own shows some great character growth.

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Neville Alcott (Ninjak’s handler) stands out for the attention he receives in a book lacking in characterization for the supporting cast. Alcott’s typically just the “man in the chair” character who rarely gets involved, so it is nice to see his capabilities as a soldier in this issue.

The other characters, though, feel like cameos. Most simply feel like cameos. Roku is one of the more prominent characters in this story, and she never gets to showcase the best parts of her character. She is incredibly deadly, yes, but the manipulative killer seems to be missing. The focus has to shift to the final battle in this conclusion, but I was hoping for more insight into her motivations.

Swords and Explosions

NINJAK VS. THE VALIANT UNIVERSE #4
Image courtesy of Valiant Entertainment.

Characterization aside, the real reason you came to NINJAK VS. THE VALIANT UNIVERSE #4 was to see some amazing battles. And does this story has you covered! Honestly, this issue carries some of the best fight sequences I have seen in any comics. Most comic book battles tend to have two main problems. They either show so much that the story gets confused or not enough to give the characters any credit. Rahal’s sense of pacing in this book is spot on. Even though the heroes rarely seem like they’ll lose, the overarching plot feels satisfying. The eventual Unity team-up halfway through the book is stunning.

Some readers may dislike the fact that the plot is so action-heavy. To be fair, there are almost no moments where the story takes a breather. The opening flashback where Alcott thinks about his family life is about the only slow moment in the story. However, no matter your thoughts on the matter, you cannot deny the tightness of the story. Even with so many working parts, Rahal manages to keep the focus squarely on Ninjak and Roku. That is no small feat. I think I was so impressed because the fighting never really felt gratuitous. These characters fight and kill for a very specific reason. It is their job. That gives a darker edge to the really cool action sequence. However, this more serious motivation doesn’t take away from the high-throttle fun of this issue.

Living, Breathing Killers

NINJAK VS. THE VALIANT UNIVERSE #4
Image courtesy of Valiant Entertainment.

The prolonged action sequence couldn’t work, though, without one of the best artistic teams in the business. NINJAK VS. THE VALIANT UNIVERSE #4 is one of the most beautiful comic books on the stands this week. Artist Joe Bennett is a master in terms of realistic characters. The ways the heroes move on the page feels so life-like. Everything just drips with intense energy thanks to Bennett’s pencils. I have especially fallen in love with his huge, multi-character splash pages. So much time seems to have gone into these pages, and the result is some of the most epic superhero stills in the industry.

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However, I cannot mention Joe Bennett’s pencils without at least mentioning the other masters working alongside him. The sign of a good inker is subtlety. There are a lot of pencilers who call for heavy black swaths across their pages, but others don’t need a lot to amplify their work. Inker Belardino Brabo is one of those inkers. His inks do just enough to accent the coolest parts of any page without overwhelming Bennett’s impressive anatomy. I also have to give a lot of credit to colorist Ulises Arreloa, whose colors pop off every page. This story feels so over-the-top in the best way because of his saturated color palette. These colors only accent the incredible superpowers and heroes bouncing around every page.

Final Thoughts: NINJAK VS. THE VALIANT UNIVERSE #4

NINJAK VS. THE VALIANT UNIVERSE #4 is a high-throttle thrill ride with some of the best action sequences in modern comics. With brilliant art and a fast paced plot, this issue is a thrilling conclusion to the VS. saga. While the story could do with a bit more in the way of characterization, I fell so hard for the battle scenes that I could look past this detail. This isn’t a particularly deep story, but it is a hell of a lot of fun. Sometimes, you can’t ask for any more than that.

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