In Review: Ninja Knockouts #1

Girls just gotta have fun, and they do in this book.

The cover: In a rural environment, as evidenced by the windmill in the distance, a car that resembles a DeLorean has come to a skidding stop on the highway leaving a trail of flame in its wake. The vehicle’s door is open and Krystle Starr, in cowgirl attire, has one leg inside the vehicle and her hands on her hips. Next to her is Kayoko Ashido, cocking her hip to the right. Her right hand is on the open door and her left is behind her back holding a metallic suitcase that sports a sticker of the San Diego Comic-Con. Kay has on a light violet jacket with a familiar looking orange exterior. Sitting on a hoverboard that’s inches above the ground is Samantha Stevens. She’s got on self-lacing Nikes and a familiar red jacket. She’s sticking out her tongue to someone unseen off to the left. The book’s logo is at the top in homage of an iconic Robert Zemeckis’s film. The bottom left corner states that this book is limited to 250 copies sold at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con. This is a very eye catching cover by artist Remy Flores. I like how it’s a take on Drew Struzan’s poster, with the colors being bright. I’m not keen on computer blurs in comics, so the fire and the ground sadly doesn’t work for me. Overall grade: B+

The story: This is a book that takes absolute pride in women having fun and adventures. Krystle Starr is the writer of this twenty-five paged, no ads book. She and Blue arrive in California for work and play. Taking an Uber to Malibu the pair get to a massive beach mansion where a “skater chick” follows them. Blue erroneously thinks this girl is trouble, but Krystle reveals she’s her friend Samantha “Sammy” Stevens. Awkward introductions over, the three go into the house and meet with Kaoko Ashido. The four go outside where it’s revealed that Blue has a meeting with a client, but she doesn’t say what the work is. Krystle has a gig for a game. The next day has Blue appearing in some interesting apparel that features a neat nod to a James Bond villain. Krystle and Sammy decide to spend the day at Universal Studios where they meet with Tiffany, who is the “Gatekeeper” at the studios. On Page 13 they encounter someone doing something of a sinister nature and it’s revealed that the ladies aren’t just beautiful. The dialogue is funny as they spar and the trio come away withe something unexpected on 17. What’s inside gets Krystle, Sammy, and Kay to their next location, where they encounter Joanie Brosas, who tries to help them in their quest. Unfortunately, Krystle is sent a picture that has them wondering what one of their own is up to. This is just a fun story. It’s not trying to change the world, it’s showing the exploits of a group of gals having an adventure. It was fun. Overall grade: A-

The art: I really like the character work by Remy Flores. It’s a very cool style that reminds me of the clean stylized work of Patrick Nagel that’s been brought to the twenty-first century. One of his strong suits is expressions on the characters that communicate what they’re thinking when there’s no dialogue. For example, Krystle at the bottom of Page 2, and Sammy and Blue on 4. The smiles on the characters are also intoxicating, creating warmth and friendship each they flash those pearlies. Flores also does a good job with surprise, with Sammy looking shocked the most at what she hears. Pages 14 – 16 have the action of the issue as the ladies go against a foe. I really like the backflip that tops 14, though I wanted to see a pull back in the third panel on the page to better see Tiffany in action. There’s a great flying kick that starts 15 that’s quickly followed by a shocking reaction. I was really disappointed by the computer blur in the fourth panel on the page; I know it’s for distance, but I want to see the characters! The leap that follows this is as mighty as an hero in any comic and the kick that begins 16 is epic. The grin at the reader at the bottom of this page is worth a million bucks and the character’s pose made me laugh out loud. There’s a full-paged splash on 20 that introduces the new location and show two of the characters in new togs — they look great! I also like the background characters, doing what many would do at that location. The characters look great, but the backgrounds and settings are something I did not expect — they were photographs. I was initially taken back by this. I can’t remember seeing photos used so often for a book. However, as the book progressed they didn’t stick out, but served the visuals of the characters perfectly. I usually chide comics that insert photos for backgrounds. This is because they’re only used occasionally. In this book they’re used all the time and because they’re used all the time I have no reason to say anything negative about them. Flores’s work is good and he should be doing other books. Overall grade: A 

The colors: I have no idea who the colorist was in this book. There’s no one specifically stated in the credits, nor on the Kickstarter website. The characters have all the colors of the rainbow but with an 80’s flair: they’re bright, neon, and luminescent when needed. Particular standouts are the characters’ hair colors, Page 15, and the interiors of the Beetle House. When I was in the middle of the book I noticed that the colors of the characters fit in perfectly with the photographic backgrounds. I thought the colors would be jarring against the photos, but they’re not. They work. I really want to know who the colorist is so he or she can be properly thanked. Overall grade: A

The letters: As with the colors, there’s no one credited for this element of the book. This book’s text includes scene settings, dialogue, and transmissions (the same font), sounds, yells, and a few words that are set apart with a different font and size in dialogue. This is the only element of the book that needs improvement. The scene settings, dialogue, and transmissions are only differed by the shape and color of their balloons or boxes. They’re three different forms of communication, so they should be in three different fonts. All are in italics, which look odd. This makes it seem that when characters talk they’re yelling at each other. The dialogue is also really large; it should be in a slightly smaller font. The scene settings are placed oddly, with the one on the second page having too much space underneath and the one on 11 having too much above it. Certain words are given their own font, such as the first spoken word on 3 and the large word that Sammy speaks on 4. These look good, but when placed side by side with the regular dialogue they come off as even louder. The sounds are very cool, with many used during the action sequence. These look great. The text is readable, but took me out of the book as I went through it. Overall grade: C

The final line: Girls just gotta have fun, and they do in this book. This isn’t trying to change the world or tell a life changing story. This is book that shows some ladies having an adventure in famous places in Southern California. The story is just fun, and when was the last time there was a book that just wanted to have fun? The visuals are outstanding, though the backgrounds are photographs. I’d like to see some proper credits so I know whom to thank. The letters are the weakest part of the book, but they’re not so bad as to mar the book completely. This is a nice change of pace for a comic and I would seek out the second issue when it’s published. Overall grade: A-

To check out the Kickstarter page go to https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/krystlestarr/ninja-knockouts-issue-1-sdcc

To find Krystle Starr visit her Instagram account: krystlestarrwars

To find Samantha K. Stevens visit her Instagram account: samanthakaystevens

To find Kayoko Ashido visit her Instagram account: kayoko_ash

To see the cover visit my Instagram account: patrickhayesscifipulse

Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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