5 Ronin

5 Days of 5 Ronin: The Punisher

Peter Milligan and Sebastian Girner bring this story of undying vengeance to a new venue



By Ben Morse

WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for the 5 RONIN series—go out and buy the book before you read it!

For the past five weeks, we’ve been witness to a unique and remarkable new take on familiar Marvel icons in 5 RONIN, conceived and executed by writer Peter Milligan, editor Sebastian Girner and a quintet of tremendously talented artists.

With the release of the fifth and final issue today, Wednesday, March 30, as well as the coming hardcover collection on May 25, we spoke at length with Milligan and Girner about each installment of this epic tale and will be presenting these exclusive commentaries all week long. Additionally, each artist to work on 5 RONIN has provided a wealth of sketch materials to illustrate how they created this vivid world set in 17th century Japan.

Monday we talked Wolverine and yesterday we discussed The Hulk, but today we cover The Punisher, whose story proves tragically familiar, but with harsh new twists along the way.

5 Ronin Punisher design art by Laurence Campbell

Marvel.com: It seems like The Punisher made the smoothest transition in terms of retaining the bulk of his back story—was that the case?

Peter Milligan: On the surface, yeah. Reading some of the commentaries on the Samurai code in the Hagakure, I was amazed at how well it seemed to fit The Punisher.

Marvel.com: Is The Punisher pretty close to a Ronin even in the modern day Marvel Universe?

Peter Milligan: No. I don’t think so. I think The Punisher is probably pretty close to being a psychopath. And though the Ronin’s extreme way of life might mimic some elements of psychopathic behavior I don’t think they were necessarily all psychopaths; though it is of course possible for an entire political or philosophical system to be psychopathic.

Sebastian Girner: The core of the Punisher’s character seems very close to that of a Samurai. He is a military man who is laser-focused on his task and absolutely nothing will deter him from it.

What you’ll see very often in stories about Ronin is how they are made to change. Even if they were once noble Samurai, the circumstances of an ever-changing world force them to wander new paths.

The Punisher, at his core, does not change, no matter the circumstance or consequence.

Marvel.com: Do you feel like The Punisher's actions are justified? By the end of the story, regardless of how he acts outwardly, does he?

Peter Milligan: I’m not a pacifist so I think there’s room for revenge. But revenge is a messy and complex business and to be driven by revenge alone will probably lead to some kind of destruction. In other words, revenge is a monster that generates moral and practical problems. That’s one of the themes of this chapter.

5 Ronin Punisher design art by Laurence Campbell

Sebastian Girner: As much as we love watching The Punisher do his thing and take out the bad guys, there’s always this bitter aftertaste. The man is essentially a monster, but he walks this very fine line that, sometimes shockingly so, keeps us justifying his actions. There’s a scene in the Punisher issue of 5 RONIN that, I hope, will get the reader thinking: Is this justifiable? Or is the man too far gone?

Marvel.com: Why introduce guns into this chapter as opposed to the more traditional weapons used in the others?

Peter Milligan: The kind of gun that The Punisher uses in this chapter is traditional and contemporary.

Sebastian Girner: Matchlock rifles were first brought to Japan in the 1540’s by Portuguese and Spanish merchants. The introduction of firearms into warfare was a deciding factor in ending the Era of Warring States in Japan because now relatively untrained rifle-infantrymen could take down heavily armored mounted Samurai from a distance. Of course, swords were still carried and used, but in battle the skill of a warrior became less important than the firepower of his army.

Marvel.com: Could this Punisher ultimately end his quest, or, like our Punisher, is he fated to do this forever?

Peter Milligan: As we leave him it seems he is fated to go on.  

Marvel.com: What were artist Laurence Campbell’s contributions to this chapter?

Peter Milligan: Laurence is quite simply brilliant. Breathtaking stuff. The Punisher can be a pretty bleak and inhuman kind of character but it was important the The Punisher in 5 RONIN continued to be human even as he was performing pretty inhuman acts.  Like the other artists, Laurence made this chapter all his own yet made it part of the whole, too.

Sebastian Girner: Laurence’s first designs of the Samurai Punisher were quite clean-cut. After an e-mail chain where I spoke of The Punisher being on the road of vengeance for a long time, maybe years, Laurence shot back the designs you see here and I was floored. In one round of sketches the Punisher morphed from man to demon. Absolute perfection.

Tomorrow, we’re back with Peter and Sebastian to take a look at the fourth Ronin: Psylocke!

Remember to pick up 5 RONIN #5, on sale now, and get your retailer to pre-order the hardcover collection!
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