Marvel's 5 Ronin mini-series should, by all accounts, be
awesome. Wolverine, The Hulk, Deadpool, The Punisher and Psylocke
get the Feudal Japan treatment in this series of one-shots.
Unfortunately, after the first two issues itís hard to stay
Wolverine is an obvious choice for a Feudal Japan comic. Weíve
already seen the character in Japan, learning the way of the Samurai
so his inclusion is expected. The problem is the comic didn't really
do anything to surprise you. Wolverine is a ronin whose master was
killed at Sekighara. He wonders the countryside contemplating
whether he should avenge his master when he is attacked by a masked
samurai. From then on the story is very vague and confusing and
boils down to a typical revenge tale. Youíre not sure whether
Wolverine is still a mutant or not and there's a lot of back-story
that isn't explained. Sure they don't have to bore you to death with
exposition, but a little help would be nice. The ending is also open
ended, which is a huge cop out when you get to the Hulk and realize
it doesn't continue on. Thereís hope that it may pick up in a later
issue, but as it stands it was a confusing and disappointing end.
The Hulk, meanwhile, is not something associated with Japanese
culture and going in I was highly optimistic for something new and
exciting. While the set-up for the Hulk is good, a troubled warrior
monk who becomes a 'monster' on the battlefield, the story is pretty
much the Seven Samurai minus six. A local village seeks the
help of the Hulk because they are being assaulted by bandits.
What saves the story is the Hulkís monstrous persona and how that
affects the battle. The warriors in the Seven Samurai are
rogues, but by the end of the story their honor is restored. The
Hulk version takes a slightly different, darker path that makes it
more enjoyable to read but in no way does it really relate to the
Wolverine tale of the week before and your left wondering whatís the
point of this mini-series? Is it just to pump the reader full of
samurai movie stereotypes?
With both issues thereís also this odd feeling because you know the
characters but you donít really get a chance to know them in the
context of this new story and setting. Everything happens very
quickly and any supporting characters are also quickly forgotten.
What holds together the mini-series is the artwork. Different
artists tackle the two issues but the end result is still two high
quality issues. The action is fierce and bloody, the character
designs authentic and highly detailed, environmental effects like
fire and rain seem natural and backgrounds fully takeover the art
helping the reader engross them in the art. The coloring is
reminiscent of the art of the time, although the Wolverine issue has
a much darker palette and the rough yet controlled pencil lines in
Wolverine suit the action well as its violent and explosive yet
thereís a grace and control to it. About the only downside to the
art comes from the confusing story of Wolverine where three
characters look the same and the action in the Hulk doesnít quite
flow as well as youíd hope.
Overall itís a shame that the first two issues haven't lived up to
their potential. It really feels like each character actually could
have done with a 3 issue arc to fully tell their tale but Marvel
didn't want to invest that much yet and are just testing the water.
I feel like I should let this series go, but with a new issue next
week and a new character the slate is wiped clean and hopefully it
will be third times a charm. Besides who doesnít want to see Deadpool back in the day?