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The ’90s Revisited: Ninjak Yearbook #1


ninjakyearbook001Writer: Mike Baron
Penciller: Bryan Hitch
Colorist: Steve Whitaker
Letterer: Adam Niedzwiecki
Editor: Maurice Fontenot
Editor-in-Chief: Bob Layton
Cover: Stu Suchit
Published by: Valiant
Cover Price: $3.95

After having recently read the Trapped by Webnet arc in the current Unity series,when I was flipping through a quarter-bin the other day, I bought this issue and actually read it same-day, even though I already had it. It was the immediacy, and I wasn’t sure what to expect, except a Ninjak story and the cover had a headshot of someone that I couldn’t imagine being anyone other than Dr. Silk.

For as many of the original Valiant books as I’ve amassed the last couple years, I’ve read surprisingly few so far (telling myself I’m waiting til I can read the entire Valiant universe start to finish with no gaps). So I didn’t quite know what to expect here. The issue is labeled as a Yearbook…I’ve come to realize that would be original Valiant‘s way of saying “Annual.” So this is the 1994 Annual for the Ninjak ongoing, and while I half expected a big To Be Continued, I was pleasantly “surprised” to find that this issue is self-contained.

I didn’t think about the art all that much as I read the issue, but I really didn’t have any problem with it. Nothing jumped out in any negative way, and I didn’t feel “distracted” by it, either. It just got the visuals across and told that side of the whole of the story. In typing this post I see Bryan Hitch was the penciler, so in retrospect I kind of “see” it, though it definitely (obviously) predates his work on The Ultimates by a number of years. Combined with the coloring, I’d have to say I prefer Ultimates to this, but there’s also the fact of reading this 20-year-old single issue, and that Hitch and comics/printing in general had a good 8-some years of development between when this issue was published and when The Ultimates came along.

The story is relatively simple: Ninjak’s out and about in his civilian guise, and gets recruited for a mission. Dr. Silk’s making trouble, and of course needs to be stopped. Ninjak encounters a rather personal foe en route to stopping Dr. Silk, and by issue’s end we’ve reached the adventure’s end.

Perhaps over-simplifying, I’d say this issue is basically a single-issue Ninja-Spy story: part ninja-guy in Ninjak, but he’s also a spy. And it sure as heck beats being just some kick-off to a longer story, or a concluding chapter of a longer story, or being a middle chapter of a story…etc.

I quite enjoyed reading the issue, and it was CERTAINLY worth the 25 cents, if solely for the amount of time it took to read. I’ve maybe read one or two other Ninjak issues through the years, though I’m honestly not even sure if I’ve read the first issue…I think I know more of the contemporary version of the character from the last couple years in current Valiant‘s X-O Manowar, Unity, and Armor Hunters titles. 

That being said…I never felt lost or taken out of the story by my lack of knowledge; though I’m consciously aware of “continuity” and such, this worked just fine for me as a single-issue “episode” of stuff. Perhaps it’s a bit formulaic…but for me, that worked in the issue’s favor.

While this is a sort of Annual as opposed to an arbitrarily-chosen issue of the ongoing series, it’s very satisfying to be able to just pick up one issue and have an enjoyable story, good art, and no burning desire to go grab another issue immediately to continue or finish the story.

Now recognizing the Yearbook issues as basically being annuals, I may actually target them for reading prior to getting down to any solid “reading projects” for classic Valiant.

If you come across this in a bargain bin, it’s certainly worth 25 cents to $1. While it’s good, it’s not any issue of particular or singular significance, and as a “generic ’90s book” I wouldn’t suggest paying more than $1 for a copy, and personally consider it truly 25-cent-bin fare.

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