5 Ronin is a new mini-series, being released in weekly succession, which reinvents five of Marvel’s most popular characters in 17th century Japan. This is an out-of-continuity tale, in the same vein as DC’s Elseworlds line, or Marvel’s 1602. The first issue features fan favourite Wolverine, and while there was one great twist in the issue that I did enjoy, the rest of the comic, from plotting and dialogue, to the art and thematic styling, just feels very generic.
As I read through the issue, I imagined the creative conversations that led to this mini-series:
“Let’s do something like those old samurai and kung-fu movies we used to watch as teenagers.”
“Sure, like Seven Samurai and Sanjuro?” “
Yeah! And like Kill Bill and Ninja Scroll too. And we can have Deadpool in it!”
The problem with this first issue is that it reads exactly like a formula for any Eastern influenced period piece. If the ‘hook’ is bringing Marvel’s characters into this ‘world’, it still doesn’t automatically make for an interesting and engaging story.
I willingly admit that I have preferences when it comes to artistic styles, but never at the exclusion of enjoying a great story though. In 5 Ronin, Tomm Coker’s rough, scratchy pencil technique, which I assume is meant to impart a sense of grittiness and danger, comes across muddy and distracting. Just because your comic wants the reader to ‘feel’ the dirty, rough, wild world the story takes place in, doesn’t mean the art literally needs to look like that.
Peter Milligan’s story is generic and cookie-cutter, except for one element. His take on Wolverine’s legendary healing factor is played up nicely and is really the best part of the story. While I am mildly curious to see how Milligan reinvents the other Marvel character’s powers and abilities, the story was too bland and boring to make me care what happens next. A very disappointing read, I won’t be picking up 5 Ronin #2.