Monday, 14 October 2013

Review: Ninjago Graphic Novels #6 & #7

Although the TV series has been off the air for the past year, Papercutz has continued to reveal the adventures in the world on Ninjago through the series of graphic novels. Fans of Ninjago have been so taken with Jay, Cole, Zane and Kai that the theme has been extended for at least another year – and with a movie in development probably longer. So with lots of focus on the new Legends of Chima, comic format has been almost the only place for new Ninjago stories in 2013.

“Warriors of Stone” and “Stone Cold” are set in the time period after the Serpentine have been defeated, and their latest enemy is the Stone Warriors. In “Warriors of Stone”, the Ninja discover that Garmadon City has been completely turned to stone – from the creatures and trees to the residents. The Ninja must solve the mystery to return the city to normal. In “Stone Cold”, Sensei Wu tells the Ninja the tale of how he fought his enemies and why he assembled the Masters of Spinjitzu. His story is a warning to the Ninja of the threats that may be to come.

As with previous Ninjago graphic novels, these are well paced stories with some fun humour. The Ninja bicker and banter together, although there are also some nice moments when Sensei Wu is facing off against his enemies – perhaps suggesting that as well as his Spinjitzu skills, the Ninja picked up his sense of humour. The artwork is first rate, with Jolyon Yates clearly having become accustomed to illustrating LEGO characters. Each panel is full of life, and considering these are just mini-figures the action is always clear. LEGO fans will enjoy noticing that almost all (if not all) of the hair pieces in these comics are genuine LEGO hair pieces!

“Warriors of Stone” is an intriguing little mystery, and has some great silly moments in the typical LEGO way, but also adds some tension and really makes the reader wonder how the Ninja will get out of their latest scrape. “Stone Cold” has impressive themes for a children’s graphic novel – nothing too unpleasant happens, but it doesn’t talk down to young readers and the sequence that delves into Sensei Wu’s dream is illustrated in a haunting way. The entire dream sequence is written and illustrated in a way that conveys the strangeness and makes it genuinely feel like a dream. Sensei Wu himself seems to be a favourite character of writer Greg Farshtey, who spends a lot of time in the series exploring the wise teacher’s character and past.

Both issues are effective at being stand-alone stories that can be dipped into and enjoyed, but also have little nods and references to the wider world and story of Ninjago. This makes it especially rewarding for those who follow the graphic novels, or who enjoy Ninjago stories in other media. “Stone Cold” also does a great job of throwing in lots of intriguing new villains – many who only turn up for a page or two, but it feels like would make worthy villains in the future.

This is one of the most successful aspects of these two stories – Farshtey and Yates create new situations, threats and villains for the Ninja to face that seem to slot into the world of Ninjago perfectly. With new, original characters there is even more scope to tell more varied and exciting stories in the future.

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