Written by Mark Long (from an idea and story by Christopher McQuarrie and Dan Capel)
Art by Mario Stilla
I love a good war comic, and am always a sucker for a nicely-designed book, so picking up Rubicon, from Archaia's Black Label imprint, seemed like an easy decision.
This story, conceptualized by screenwriter, written up by a former SEAL, and then finally written for comics by a novelist and video game designer, modernizes the concept behind Akira Kurosawa's Seven Samurai, and sets it in Afghanistan.
We are introduced to Hector Carver, a fire team leader, who gets word that one of his close friends was killed in a suicide bombing within a forward operating base in the Panjshir Valley. His team is on its way (although I'm not entirely sure why - it's not like the military would send special forces in after such an event), despite the fact that this puts Carver in hot water with his ex-wife, and his current girlfriend.
We learn that the bombing was carried out by a resident of a local village of opium farmers, who are opposed to the Taliban. This guy was forced into doing this because his family was being held captive. When Carver's team find the guy who made the bomb, they drop him off in the village so that the bomber's father can have his revenge. The village decides to let the guy go so as to not anger the Taliban, who decided to come back and steal all the opium anyway.
The soldiers decide to dig into the village and protect it, even though that leads to some difficulties with the locals. Carver's team is supported by two FOBbits, one of whom feels a serious need to prove himself in the eyes of the more experienced operators. Much violence and bloodshed ensues.
This is a pretty standard story, and one that reminded me of a lot of fiction from the Vietnam War. The base is surrounded, everyone depends on one another, as they slowly get picked away by an overwhelming number of enemies. In that sense, the story works well, but there are some things that I felt weren't very clear. I was not sure what the relationship between the village and the base was, and why there wouldn't be more support during the big fight. I also was never clear on why Carver's team was there in the first place. Perhaps this story needed a little more workshopping to make it smoother.
Mario Stilla's art was very nice. He is an Italian artist, and so things look pretty European, in terms of layout and design. I especially liked the establishing shots that really captured the look and feel of a remote Afghan village. He also handles the action very well.
One thing I really liked about this book was the envelope at the back, which contained a variety of documents, such as a letter home, a Purple Heart certificate, and some military papers like maps and reports. I've always been a sucker for that kind of thing, and it helps add a level of veracity to the whole affair.