Back in 2011, a project called Rubicon was revealed as a contemporary reimagining of Seven Samurai. Moving Akira Kurosawa’s classic film into war torn Afghanistan, the story would follow five US Navy SEAL operators defending a remote farming village from Taliban attacks.
The plans were to put the story out in three different media: a movie, a graphic novel and a video game. The people involved included Oscar winning screenwriter Christopher McQuarrie (The Usual Suspects, Wolverine), graphic novelist and game developer Mark Long (The Silence of Our Friends, Shrapnel) and Dan Capel, member of US Navy’s special mission unit SEAL Team Six.
While fairly little concrete information has been around, and my own inquiries have similarly never gotten any reply, the comic book was quietly published a couple of weeks ago, and reviews have been trickling in. Looking at what has been written, the reaction seems to range from “uninspiring” to “competent”.
At the low end of the scale we find the review at Publishers Weekly, writing that the comic “strips its source concept of all the character and depth that made it great, saddles it with uninspired art, and hands the reader what amounts to an especially derivative and quite generic lads’ war comic”. The review ends by saying that “the book comes off like the realization of a one-sentence notion hastily scribbled on a cocktail napkin”. Ouch.
Nick Hanover at Comics Bulletin is a little more positive, summing up by saying that “Rubicon is interesting in theory, bland in execution”. Like the Publishers Weekly review, Hanover points out that the story fails to live up to its source material. He also finds fault with the art, describing characters as stiff, bland and often graphically inconsistent. However, Hanover does offer hope at the end of the review, suggesting that the story should work better as a film or a video game, if those planned versions are one day realised.
The somewhat more positive review (“it IS a good read, and it’s a refreshing change”) at Geeks of Doom disagrees with Hanover’s assessment of the drawings, describing the art “of an excellent standard”. Yet, the review does ultimately come to the same conclusion as the Comics Bulletin one, writing that “Rubicon suffers from its presentation in the graphic novel format” and would in the end work better as a film.
Finally, we have a review by Dennis Hall at Dork Shelf. Like Hanover, he notes the stiffness of the characters but ultimately congratulates the artist Mario Stilla for his drawings. As for the story, Hall suggests that Rubicon will work better for those unfamiliar with Kurosawa’s original, but that at the end of the day the comic book is a well done homage, “respectful to the source while still adding something new to keep it fresh and interesting”.
Apparently, the next step for the transmedia project will be to release a web series which functions as a prequel to the comic book. For a little more information about the project and the comic book, you can check out a recent interview with Mark Long at comicbookresources.com and another one at graphicpolicy.com.