cover image Gratuitous Ninja

Gratuitous Ninja

Ronald Wimberly. Beehive, $100 (636p) ISBN 978-1-948886-34-5

Wimberly (Prince of Cats) adapts his webtoon into a cannily constructed and rollicking saga that features hip-hop-styled warring shinobi (ninja) and “pyrates” in a gritty fantastical version of New York City. Fledgling shinobi from the Namba clan—vandal Roxy “9ONE” Davis, swordsman and “best DoorDasher in the five boroughs” Kibo Evars, and weed dealer Mo’ Brown—use Ninja Science and a spectacular smoke bomb to capture Porgy, a supposed pyrate criminal, in the Gowanus projects. After tying him up and leaving him for the authorities to find, the crew relaxes at Ramen Kaida, gets tattoos, and participates in their housing association while Porgy begins a monthlong stint at the Vernon C. Bain Correctional Center, “the world’s largest prison ship.” Porgy plots an escape with fellow pyrate Base and their mentor Captain Kuda. The nonlinear narrative unfolds in accordion booklets splashed with electric colors and propulsive manga art stylings that fuel the story’s dynamism; additional art by Freddy Carrasco and Afu Chan supplements Wimberly’s. With an anarchist take on the ninja legend and a nod to the Black Panther Party in the pyrates’ backstory, Wimberly flips perspectives about community building and revolution. A raucous showdown at the Namba clan’s “bougie farmer’s market” ends with rapid-fire references to nonviolence, police brutality, and making sacrifices for love. Fans of Afro Samurai will vibe with this high-adrenaline epic. (Dec.)