Marvel likes, as of late, to dump its characters into alternate settings and genres. For instance, last year we seemed to be besieged by a series of "Noir" mini-series, placing folks like the X-Men or Daredevil into detective noir stories. "5 Ronin" appears to be along those same lines, sticking five characters into Japan's past for a series of stories that lead up to...
Well, that's one of the problems here. We're two issues into "5 Ronin" and this appears to be going nowhere.
So far the sole link is a masked samurai that's traveled from one comic to the next (the identity of whom is probably the comic's Deadpool analog), but otherwise this spotlight on the Hulk has nothing to do with last week's focus on Wolverine. Peter Milligan's story feels like it could have come out of any samurai film, with the retired warrior having renounced his violent ways, only to have to shed his monk's robes to defend an innocent town from bandits.
It's such a stereotype that it's hard to warm to this Hulk analog. The second he sends the village's supplicants away, you know exactly where this comic is going, and not just that the monk will come down and help them. And because everyone in this comic is a stereotype, there's nothing to latch onto that makes them interesting characters; no special character quirks or particularly funny bits. This is the absolute essence of predictability.
While not as exciting as last issue's art from Tomm Coker, it's once again the art that does the heavy lifting here. Dalibor Talajic's art is attractive, with a lot of texture and detail presented up to us. (The splash that introduces the Hulk/monk reminds me so much of Gary Gianni's art that I actually did a double-take, with the way the robe folds and creases, or how the shadows play on his face.) It's not perfect—there's one panel where the rain appears to being poured on the couple via a bucket and nowhere else, for instance, and the big battle scene is awkwardly staged from start to finish—but it's still the reason to read the comic.
After two issues of "5 Ronin," I can't figure out what the point of this series is, except perhaps to provide a venue for David Aja's gorgeous covers. I wish there was something more being offered up, but with "5 Ronin" it appears to be all about the art. Considering Milligan's has some great comics under his belt both past and present, this is a bit of a disappointment overall.