Writer/Artist: Tri Vuong
Colorist: Annalisa Leoni
Letterer: Rus Wooton
Okay so first thing’s first, I have two young nephews who are super into Ninjago (they watch the show, they own the figures and playsets, they attempt terrible American accents when playing with said figures and playsets). As a result I am familiar with this corner of Lego Brand land. I have spent hours deep diving into the Lego Ninjago wiki (there is a lot of deep lore) in order to relate to two important humans in my life. So I wasn’t coming at this as a total newbie. I was also familiar with the Lego brand Ninjago comics that have been produced (you know the ones you get a free mini figure with) and wanted to see how a more pure comic (without the puzzles pages or random adverts) would fare.
The short answer is… really well actually. It’s a lot better than those.
I knew some part of Garmadon’s back story (he’s the bad guy and also Lloyd’s Dad but Lloyd is good and Garmadon is bad but then he wasn’t but he is still a bad guy I was informed by a four year old) but what’s handy is that this issue nicely lays it all out for you at the start. It really works to condense what is a pretty long and complicated Wiki article (seriously his history is separate from his main wiki page, it’s that complicated) into something that a newbie reader, and I suspect a lot of kids will be among them (though to be fair they probably know it all), can understand. I really appreciated it because not being up to date on what is going on in Ninjago canon right now I didn’t know why there was a focus on Garmadon or what he had been up to recently (and I don’t mind spoilers).
So handily armed with the knowledge of who Garmadon is and his general character arc over thousands of years you can then jump into the rest of this comic knowing what you need to. It’s very effective and I appreciated it.
So once you know who Garmadon is you are thrown right into it as he faces… himself. Ninjago is so very different to the rest of the Lego universes as there’s really strong fantasy elements involved. Not only are there Ninjas, there are elemental powers, dragons, demons, a skeleton army, and so much more (like you know… Ninja Squirrels). So the concept of Garmadon fighting himself, or someone who looks like him, as that other self sinisterly warns him is one that is right at home in this universe. It’s also a strong staple of fantasy fiction generally.
After that nightmarish scenario (I love that this is playing with the concept of realities – was it just dreams?) is over Garmadon does some traveling and finds himself passing a title page which starts the tale proper now we are equipped with both a hook (what was that nightmare confrontation about?) and a background. Again I love how this sets things up so well. As a newbie I felt I was being guided in the best way possible.
It is when Garmadon happens across some villagers being attacked by a bear that the humour really shines through. For yes, although there are some deep concepts (a lot of death happens in this universe though it doesn’t always stick) at the end of the day Ninjago is aimed at kids so that is balanced out by humour and I have to admit I found aspects of this issue downright hilarious. The way Garmadon fights and defeats the bear is hilarious (the bear is fine guys) as his resignation at helping the villagers (all they needed to do was stroke his ego).
There’s definitely some darker concepts here but it also has some humour to not have things go so deep. It was also really easy to follow the plot. I know this is aimed at kids but sometimes as an adult it’s nice to read something that’s just good no matter who the intended audience is. I even managed to pick up on who the red crows were (the bad guys for next issue I sense) without resorting to the wiki.
I haven’t touched on the art yet which is excellent. The art here is still recognisable as Lego, and the show itself, but it’s a bit more softened. I don’t want to say realistic because there’s not a lot of realism involved here (unless there really are magi teas you can buy that amplify your powers) but it feels more like its own thing. It’s an art style I really like. Yes the characters are clearly Lego and I love that that is reflected in the movement but the world as a whole feels much more like a fantasy land. It fits. The characters are also recognisable from the show. Garmadon’s design exactly matches his CGI cartoon self.
The colouring is also really nice. There’s some really good use of purple when we have Garmadon use his powers (or try to). We also get good use of blue. A lot of this issue takes place at night and the way the night time is conveyed with the blues works, yet keeps the art bright at the same time to help lift the tone via the art. There’s also a really nice dramatic moon. The action is solidly drawn and as already mentioned the movement on the characters is perfect.
I am a fan of Rus Wooton’s lettering generally and I very much liked his work here. It fitted nicely with the world.
I didn’t expect to love this book like I did. Yes, it is a Lego kid’s book, but I had a great time reading it. The world of Ninjago had a lot to offer me the adult reader but I am sure kids will love it just as much. I finally have a recommendation suitable for my nephews and really I cannot ask for more than that from a Ninjago book.