Some of you may remember 7 Brothers as the graphic novel created by director John Woo and published by Virgin Comics (now Liquid Comics) in 2006. New life is being breathed into the story in the form of a stop motion web project.
7 Brothers is a re-telling of a classic Chinese myth. 600 hundred years ago, long before other explorers sailed the seas, the Chinese empire set out to search new lands and find new races of people. Their intent was not to enslave, but to bring peace to the uncivilized lost peoples of the world and benefit from treasures around the world. As the vast fleet discovered the continents, they mapped new shore lines and began to see a bigger picture of the world. The fleet was unaware that a sorcerer among their party, The Son of Hell, had aspirations of world domination and was using the expeditions as a means to serve his sinister ends. Jump forward to the present day and an unknowing group of men are brought together by a mysterious woman with serious fighting skills of her own. Through the story, the men discover their purpose and re-discover what makes them special as they realize they have been called to save the world.
John Woo is best known as the film director behind Mission Impossible II, Face/Off and the cult classic Hard Boiled. Woo put his spin on the Chinese myth, giving it a modern spin in the graphic novel released in 2006. 7 Brothers combines mythology and the superhero theme, epic storytelling by Garth Ennis and impressive art styling from Jeevan Kang. Garth Ennis is perhaps best known for his DC Comics ties on projects such as Preacher, Hitman. Violence and the supernatural have been consistent themes in Ennis’ previous works, as is an anti-hero tone. The concept of the everyman becoming the reluctant hero seems appealing subject matter to Ennis and has led to many successful comic projects.
Let me start with my thoughts on the graphic novel. The story is intriguing and the influence of Asian folklore gives it an incredible sense of depth. Admittedly, the back-story and the setup of the story in the current day is my favorite part, as is the dialogue and artwork during this time-frame. It is in these parts, each of the contributors is at their best. I appreciate the concept of taking a myth passed down throughout history, turning it on its ear and placing the key characters in the modern world. The re-imaging lends itself to creating a bit of mystery which serves to foster curiosity within the reader.
When it comes to the modern-day setting, I was pleased by the differences between the 7 key characters. Though the are undoubtedly connected, they could not be more different. Each character has their own rich back-story that peppers their personality and reactions in a realistic way. My one major issue in terms of characters is that of Ronald. In my opinion, I feel the stereotype he is meant to embody is taken too far. Something that is far more blatant in the web project. I also have a slight problem with The Son of Hell character when he makes an appearance in the modern world. His dialogue is not what I would expect from a sorcerer buried deep beneath the earth these last 600 years. His dialogue adapts far too quickly to the modern world without any context on which to base the adaptation. It would have been nice to see more formal speech patterns or the use of Chinese phrases mixed in. Kudos must be awarded for the character of Rachel. It is refreshing to see a female character who can hold her own and take down the big boys without relying on her sexuality.
As for the web project, I cannot say I am entirely a fan. Essentially, the web project is a re-hash of the graphic novel, almost panel for panel. Think of it as someone putting on a puppet show with paper dolls. It is not the direct translation to web that bothers me, at least not as much as the haphazard mouths. I can actually appreciate the paper doll treatment and in fact respect it. I think it was a good move to retain the original art from the graphic novel. However, I cannot condone simply slapping a mouth onto an existing character without enhancing the rest of the facial features. This distracts and annoys more than I can put into words. The score is well done and the selected music does lend itself nicely to the action. The voice acting is pretty good as well.
The bottom line is this . . . if you have no plans to read the graphic novel, or if you want to see what all the buzz is about, watch the web project. Otherwise, skip it and get your hands on copies of the graphic novel (5 part series). You can take a peek at the first volume of 7 Brothers on the Liquid Comics website. In its pure artistic form is where the story, dialogue and art come together to create a masterful story. Don’t take my word for it, check out the first episode of the 7 Brothers web adaptation below. The episodes are approximately 6 minutes in length. They are being released 4 episodes at a time. Currently 8 episodes are available and they are being distributed exclusively through the Machinima YouTube Channel.