Story: Brian Wood
Art: Andrea Mutti
What They Say:
In a rush of great public resistance to an oppressive and excessive government, a homegrown militia movement is formed in rural America. This is not 2015, but 1775. With the war for independence playing out across the colonies, young Seth and Mercy Abbott find their new marriage tested at every turn, as the demands of the frontlines and the home front collide.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
Having enjoyed several other series by Brian Wood in the last couple of years, I definitely found myself interested in Rebels, particularly since I saw a lot of contrary opinions about the opening issue with some of the early reviews. I also have a pretty decent interest in this period of history, though I had to get many years away from my school days before I could really approach it again as all we ever really learned were dates, battles and the like. Part of my interest was revived through the recent AMC TV series Turn, but also the fact that my eldest daughter is huge into history and talks about it a lot, so I’m always getting new tidbits along the way. Wood teams up with Andrea Mutti here to bring it to life and it’s definitely a great pairing as the artwork for this really gets into the rough, naturalistic side of it all, so it doesn’t have a clean look nor does it look grimy beyond words.
With the opening issue, we get a fair bit of establishing material going on, though it’s more about the people and the kind of world they live in rather than the bigger picture. Though the series will take place largely in 1775 as it gets moving, it starts much earlier here as we’re introduced to a young man named Seth Abbott and the kind of curt, no nonsense life that he had to lead because of his father. Through it, we get to see some of what he struggled with as a child with his father and how his own actions harmed his father years later. There’s a great sequence where we see father teaching son about the defense of property and rights against the British that came from Albany, taking us to 1768 in he New Hampshire Grants. With the way many had gotten their land and worked it hard, having the British coming up with lightly and easily creative ways to repossess it through their actions with the grants works well to establish the fear, anger and worry that populates those that manage the lands. Some fight it out, others give up easily and disappear for fear of worse. For Seth, his first action goes poorly overall because of youthful indecisiveness, but it firms him up for what’s to come eight years later as a man.
Getting that early look is critical to understand Seth and his quiet ways, since it’s reflective of his experience, but we also see his time learning things from his mother with reading and writing. And that comes into play later as he and others end up in Westminster to talk about what’s going on and demand that they be heard about what they’re losing. A simple idea of keeping judges from using the offices comes into play as a way to stop their lands from being taken from them, but that’s one of those early flashpoint moments that reaffirms the differences between colonists and the British. Since the forces are coming out of Albany, there’s some colony oriented aspects that come into play for the landowners, but we see from the British that they view the colonies as a whole, regardless of individual colony governments, and work from there. That sets them apart and creates friction, which we do see Seth trying to tamp down on so that it doesn’t spiral out of control.
The book does play in another area as well, giving us some time between Seth and a woman named Mercy Abbott early on as an adult, and that comes back into focus towards the end as a way to show how the world works as her family had their grant taken from them and then lost so much more out of fear for what the British might do next. Seth’s known her for an age, so his retrieval of the papers fits in his quiet character, but I love that through the narration we see how it ends up bringing them together, partially out of convenience and necessity to be sure, to begin a new life together. There’s a simplicity to things that’s done through this, particularly as it’s told only through Seth’s side, and it also sets the table a bit for what’s to come by talking about Washington and what he’ll be bringing to the table. With the British doing so much around the colonies and causing troubles, these small flashpoints are starting to build and focusing on this area feels fresh and interesting.
Rebels is one of those series that feels like it’s going to fit right into that sweet spot for me with what it’s going to do. A lot of these types of properties tend to play more to the bigger name players in the Revolutionary War, and I expect that will happen here as well. We get a lot of time with Seth here and because there is a simplicity to life at this point in time compared to the complexity of the modern world, we get the feeling that we really know him well through the mild montage piece at the start, his first encounter with fighting and then the way he operates as an adult – both in dealing with other people and with Mercy herself. The book as a whole is just engaging throughout for me, with great narration pieces, solid dialogue that flows well and a visual design that’s just striking. There’s a sense for me that this would work better here than in a live action piece simply because of the way you get to be drawn to the details of it all and Mutti makes it feel very lived in and natural, making the artwork a big part of the appeal.
Age Rating: 13+
Released By: Dark Horse Comics
Release Date: April 8th, 2015