Meet the 5 Ronin

Peter Milligan transports five popular heroes to a bygone past in feudal Japan

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By Jim Beard

Though the Marvel Universe teems with characters who hang out together, it’s the loners among them who’ve often proved the most popular with fans. This March, the House of Ideas offers up five such heroes to tell a tale of long ago and far away in 5 RONIN.

In the five-issue weekly-shipping limited series, writer Peter Milligan sets Wolverine, Psylocke, The Punisher, Deadpool and The Hulk down in feudal Japan, a setting rich with danger and intrigue yet soaked in romance as well. Their unique personalities combined with this lush landscape allows for storytelling of a different stripe from their previous adventures.

 

“These characters are all icons, but they're all very different, with very different and contrasting psychological make-ups,” Milligan explains.  “Whereas Psylocke and Wolverine could be said to possess cunning, The Punisher is a relentless blunt and deadly weapon. Hulk—at least how Hulk is portrayed in this story—is different again. A seeker of truth and enlightenment....to control the monster inside oneself is the greatest form of enlightenment.

“These characters are very recognizable [in 5 RONIN]. To all extent and purposes they are the same characters; there'd be no point using them if they weren't very much like their Marvel Universe [counterparts]. In fact, that's what interesting about the story; seeing these heroes put into a different world and pitched against different problems.  The world they find themselves in is a world in flux, and our heroes are also in states of flux, which is of course the most interesting and revealing condition for heroes to be in.”

As masterless samurai—“ronin”—the five make their way through the countryside of their own accord, but a shared fate will set them on the same path. Each issue details their stories, every chapter revealing another piece of the greater epic.

“Their fate is to be caught up in the seismic shifts of a changing world,” Milligan says. “Unaware of each others' existence our heroes will come to learn that one man has had a terrible effect on all their lives. It is this one man who draws [them] together, so that their brutal paths cross.”

Milligan, though fair in his admiration of the five, set his eye upon one ronin in particular:

“I like them all, but the way that Psylocke has emerged from this book really moved and intrigued me.”

5 RONIN presents not only an incredible cast of characters, but also an immensely talented crew of creators. Milligan’s thrilled to be joined by a rotating line-up of artists, which includes Tomm Coker, Dalibor Talajic, Laurence Campbell, Goran Parlov and Leandro Fernandez. The writer also reserves high praise for the series’ editors, who played instrumental roles in its development.

“[Editors] Axel Alonso and then Sebastian Girner called me and asked if I was interested in this sort of thing,” he recalls. “Sebastian and I then spent a lot of time talking throwing ideas and notes back and forth and honing the concept, storyline and characters. I had to do a lot of research for this story. But the great thing about Sebastian is that he has such a passion for Japan and all things Japanese that he was a wonderful source of knowledge and enlightenment.”

Look for more amazing 5 RONIN preview art coming your way from Marvel later this week!

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Finally, the Marvel universe does Akira Kurosawa, Lone Wolf and Cub and Lady Snowblood. Nice!