Four ninjas, Cole, Kai, Zane, and Jay, have taken on the task of protecting the world of Ninjago against four evil clans of snake-men. Training with their master, Sensei Wu, these four have mastered the art of Spinjitsu and they seem to be a match for all things snakey.
Only now they’re getting cocky. Sensei Wu warns the ninja that their skills alone are not enough; their power will be complete only when they have knowledge as well as face-kicking abilities. He sends them on a mission to collect the scattered pieces of the Serpentine Stone, a rock on which the history of the snake-men is written. The stone could hold secrets that will help the ninja understand and defeat their enemies. They’d better hope it does, since the pieces are hidden in four dangerous, far-flung places and the Fangpyre, one of the four snake clans, is also after the stone.
The characters of the Lego Ninjago series are . . . wait for it . . . made of Legos. The books are illustrated rather than photographed — and the Lego characters sometimes bend and move in ways that real Legos can’t — but most of them are still visibly, if subtly, made of Lego pieces. (I say “most” because a few creatures, like the giant shark guarding one of the stones, don’t look like Lego creations at all.) The panels are large, the illustrations straightforward, colorful, and slightly cartoonish, but not enough to obscure details of the characters, vehicles, etc.
Which brings me to a fact that even a ninja couldn’t dodge: this series is certainly doing some marketing for the Lego company. The characters can all be purchased in actual Lego form. And not just the characters: Cole drives the Tread Assault and Jay cruises in the Storm Fighter, which are all sold separately, of course. Plus, even though only the Fangpyre actually do anything in this volume, the book manages to mention, and briefly show, all four snake clans. Collect them all! (Note: the words “collect them all” and “sold separately” do not actually appear in the book. But it’s subtext, people.)
It’s important to note that none of this makes Tomb of the Fangpyre a bad book. In fact, I found it a pretty fun read, with lots of non-scary action and kid-friendly quips. One gets the impression that the plot of the overall series is really moved along by this book – in addition to the plot about the Serpentine Stone, a character we’ve never met is discovered to be innocent of a crime we never saw him accused of. Things are explained well enough to make sense, and the book certainly can stand alone, but some of the revelations are probably more meaningful if you’ve read the first three volumes.
I will just note that no female characters of any kind appear. (Okay, I can’t say for certain about the snakes.)
The thin, glossy paperback begins with a visual introduction to each of the four ninja heroes and their master, and it ends with a note from the Papercutz Editor-in-Chief about the ongoing Lego Ninjago series. The story in between will likely appeal to young readers who like fantasy adventure and, yes, Legos.
Lego Ninjago #4: Tomb of the Fangpyre
by Greg Farshtey
Art by Jolyon Yates