By: Jai Nitz (writer), Colton Worley (artist), Romulo Fajardo (colors), Joseph Rybandt (editor)
The Story: Way of the Ninja, Part Three: Kato is on the trail of the ninja assassins who killed the Korean grocer (the father of his beloved) and left with a mysterious package. They’ve left on a train, so he becomes the hunter.
What’s Good: Kato Origins #1 blew me away, but #2 had down-shifted a gear and hadn’t left me so satisfied. In this issue, Nitz has hit all those elements that made the first issue so good for me. The writing is richly layered. Kato’s monologue never shows a man thinking in linear tracks. Kato thinks in themes and parallels. Take the statement he makes on page one: “I know nothing about trains.” Where do you think Nitz takes this enigmatic opening? Well, the monologue reaches into the interests of the heart, the essence of the ninja, Kato’s knowledge of cars, and his insight into the essence of the racist experience of the Asian coolie in the building of America. Nitz does the same thing with a love letter. The current of racism continues to run through the book (like it did in the first issue) to great effect. The racism, poverty, and persecution, the hero on the underside, the guy who has less options than the white man to solve any given problem because of the color of his skin, all adds great depth to this story. While many heroes have to disguise themselves from time to time, Kato has to hide his features here, because an Asian couldn’t well get on a train in World War Two America, hero or villain. This not only brings Kato the stoic hero closer to the reader, but it depicts the persecuted hero in a more visceral way than that X-Men ever did in all their splash and color. I also love Nitz’s more realistic treatment of Kato’s “super-powers.” Kato is an awesome ninja, but against someone with a gun or four guys, you’re not going to see him solve the situation without breaking a sweat or taking a hit. As a last point on the writing, I was wondering how Nitz was going to keep this series fresh. The scope seemed pretty local so far, but boy did he crack this story wide open in this issue. All in all, hats off to Jai Nitz.
Worley’s gritty art remains perfectly matched to the mood and moment of the world of a Japanese ninja hero in world war two. Not only does the period work, with all the technological and cultural trappings of the time, but so too does the emotional side. Kato is a stoic, but he’s in love, and Worley, ably assisted by Fajardo, shows what he’s going through, both emotionally with his woman, and physically with the fights and travels he has to take on.
What’s Not So Good: I don’t have any experience with the Green Hornet, so all of his cheerful interactions with the gloomy, stoic Kato leave me feeling like he’s a bit of a putz. I guess I’m used to the peppy member of the superhero duo being the sidekick (the low status one). I’m not sure how well the reversal in this pair of characters is going to make me like the Green Hornet, but given the quality of this series, I may check out one of the main Green Hornet series.
Conclusion: I was totally ready this week for Kato Origins #3 to take second place to The Thanos Imperative #3, but Nitz and Worley really caught all of this one and knocked it out of the park. Pick it up.