Review by Frank Plowright
In By the Sword Aric, a Visigoth warrior from 400AD acquired a vastly powerful alien suit of armour and found himself on Earth in the present day. This takes some adjustment, and he decamps to the Amazon to figure things out.
In that first volume the Vine, essentially spider-aliens, were seen merging human DNA with their own infants, and centuries later this has led to their descendants being loyal to the aliens, able to communicate with them, via a form of mentally logging on to a virtual chat room. The Vine’s ultimate plan is to inherit the Earth, and their agents move matters along. They can afford to play a long game as time passes differently for humans and the aliens.
A matter they’d not foreseen was Aric making off with their sacred armour, and this is to be retrieved at all costs. The agent dispatched to do so is Ninjak, a weapons and unarmed combat freelance specialist. It may seem a mismatch, but Ninjak is more than capable, arriving as Aric interrogates the sole surviving member of the previous force sent to attack him.
Writer Robert Venditti surprised with the previous volume, turning in a sprightly re-working of a 1990s concept for modern usage, and continues that in Enter Ninjak, switching from science-fiction thriller to plain action thriller. Ninjak is another 1990s Valiant character, this time only requiring minimal upgrading for purpose, but Venditti emphasises a combination of ninja skills and present day technology. There is a little more attention paid to characterisation in this collection, with others apart from Aric required to move the plot forward.
Lee Garbett’s art doesn’t hold quite the appeal of Cary Nord, who worked on By the Sword, but is in no manner deficient. His layouts tell the story, but lack the dynamism Nord provided.
The ground has shifted quite considerably by the conclusion, and the story continues in the Planet Death collection. All three volumes are also available within the hardcover X-O Manowar Deluxe Edition volume 1.