Written by Greg Farshtey
Illustrated by Jolyon Yates
Letters by Bryan Senka
Colours by Laurie E. Smith
Associate Editing by Michael Petranek
Editing in chieferizing by Jim Salicrup
Cover by uncredited, but looks like Jolyon’s work
Published by Papercutz
the three cents.
As each of the four Ninjago ninjas face the aftermath of their individual defeats at the hands of the stone warriors, Sensei Wu elects to share a story with them, a story that goes deeper into the origins of these characters than has ever been acknowledged before, whether in the prose books from Scholastic or the popular animated series. Because comic books are special like that.
While we know the backstories for Cole, Kai, Jay and Zane, now it is Wu’s turn in the spotlight, as Farshtey gives a really fun plot that fills a previously unrecognized void decidedly well, adding a new level of dimension to this very core cast member. The sense of humor to this series is just wonderful, from stories consistently exhibiting a reliably energetic imagination comparable to that of a ten year old off his leash, to the general absurdity of the artistic forms in action. And while this chapter in the ongoing graphic novella series has all of that in spades as usual, it is actually also the darkest tale yet, as Wu’s private war against the onslaught of a supremely colorful rogues gallery all his own provides setup for future plots yet to be revealed. Farshter writes the mostly light-hearted fantasy well, action and adventure galore, but this issue serves as a fine, fine testament to just how crafty he really is in constructing his stories for this property. I have read more than several mini-series and story-arcs of other things that lacked the breadth of character development found in this single story, from the many really inventive villains and how each is dealt with, to the overarching thread of Wu’s secrets, and the reasoning for those secrets. It’s a great plot structure, strong execution and lots of food for thought.
I have seen the name of Jolyon Yates begin to creep up in the credits of comics from other publishers, which is frightening as in spite of the many wonderful guest cover artists these books have known, he is the true master of this “brick-punk” world, and as such I should hope Salicrup and company keep him chained down good and tight for the continued amusement of New York Times bestseller list-followers everywhere. He’s clearly influenced by both Jack Kirby in the power of his compositions and by Al Williamson in his royally diverse and stylized texturing, but his storytelling is profoundly, gracefully, to the point in its very own way. His work in these pages fully embraces the absolute ridiculousness of these characters like a badge of honor, with a friendly slyness that is blissfully immediate in pulling you directly into the story. Like bumping into some of your all-time favorite toys after too many years in the grownup world. Senka has the flow of this premise down like a science, offering a straight-forward approach that insinuates a medieval feel to the dialogue and captions. And Smith has coloured many of the covers before, so seeing her work on the interiors felt very natural, and she does much to add to the finer details of the crazy assortment of new villains introduced in this issue. She also seems like a natural for reading Yates’ mind in how to convey some of the action sequences, the sorts with flying waves of energy by having pure colour go and do what the lines cannot. It’s almost like a singular visual artist constructed the entire comic’s artwork digitally, without any distractions or unintended nuance.
Whether you follow the characters in other media or not (coughcoughcough) this is a thoroughly fun series for the tomboys of all ages, and this issue specifically may as well be a self-contained tale, as it exists as a sidestep from the stone warriors drama entirely. Every issue is a solid jumping on point really, as the overall continuity is very easy to pick up along the way. LEGO is a big business, but it is wonderful to see so many genuinely creative talents clearly having fun with such a silly thing where toy-shaped ninjas are cracking wise and learning valid life lessons all at once. I almost shame myself in enjoying the Ninjago comics this much. Solid clean fun without a hint of smarm in the mix.