Publisher: Magnetic Press
Writer: J.D. Morvan
Translator: Mike Kennedy
Letterer: Neurobellum Productions
Cover Artist: Bengal
Last year Magnetic Press released a translated, 258-page hardcover collection of Morvan and Bengal five-part French comic, Naja. I finally had a chance to sit down with this hefty read after this year’s C2E2. Just from the beautiful cover and the superb quality of the hardcover, you know you’re in for a treat as soon as you pick it up. A beautiful cover aside, is Naja worth reading and adding to your collection. That is answered four-fifths yes.
Naja is one of the top assassins in the world, working for the mysterious benefactor Zero. She has never met him; the missions come in, she completes them, and then waits for her next orders. She is the perfect assassin.
Zero has his top killers ranked into the top three spots. Naja is number three in this ranking. An even more mysterious man enters Naja’s life to warn her, those above her in rank believe she wants to take their place and are going to kill her. With this heads up, Naja takes the opportunity to get them jump on both number one and number two. This will lead her down a path full of love, friends, family, death, and more twists than a M. Knight Shyamalan film.
Naja herself is a very interesting character. A previous accident causes her to feel no pain and generally have a lack of emotion towards anything. The exception is her dislike of most people and the way they do things. This makes her an excellent killer as she feels no remorse. Her lack of empathy to the world does slowly begin to change with the man who comes to warn her. He is able to get the jump on her which impresses her and he ties her up, something that brings feelings forth as it is the way her father use to treat her (her parental issues are a whole other thing.)
She is a very complex character who is deeply troubled, but you cannot help but fall in love with her. This is a combination of great writing from Morvan and lush art from Bengal. For Morvan’s side, the entire story actually has very little dialogue. Instead we are given a near omniscient second-person narrator who brings us along into this world. The narrator is used to great effect, and actually leads to some surprises later in the story about what or who we thought was guiding us.
For Bengal’s art, he uses a style that is almost a cross between traditional anime and traditional comic book. It is very unique and very stunning. The colors he chooses make every scene leap off the page with heavy pastels. Given that the story is guided by the narrator, Bengal is given much reign to craft amazing action sequences that flow through panels than most comics out there. It is easily one of the best style’s I have seen in quite some time. With that said, it is not always perfect as especially towards the end it begins to feel a little rushed in spots.
Now going back to our introduction to Naja, the first four books will have you completely engrossed with very little missteps. However, the final chapter gets weird. Very weird. In an effort to what we assume is shock us, Morvan has twist after twist in the final chapter and the small epilogue. Several of them are incestuous in nature and just take the book down a strange path in upending everything you thought you knew. While it didn’t destroy the overall experience, it did make me have to reread several parts just to make sure what was being revealed was actually what was being revealed. The epilogue alone might make your skin crawl if it wasn’t already.
Putting the misguided ending aside, Naja still was a wonderful experience brought to life by Bengal’s incredible art and Morvan’s otherwise excellent direction. Magnetic Press compiled the story into a gorgeous hardcover that really sticks out and shines sitting on our bookcase. If you are looking for a story unlike anything else you’ve read recently and want a beautiful new book for your collection to show off, Naja is the right book for you.