ADVANCE REVIEW: Rebels #1
“DMZ” is one of my favorite comic series of all time because of the brutal way it looks at a single man taking action and the consequences that come from it. In that series, writer Brian Wood offered an analogy to what was happening in the Middle East at the time. Through Matty Roth, we as readers experience the brutality of living a war torn state. Through Matty Roth, we watched the rise and fall of a young man who was swept up in his own propaganda and pays the ultimate price when the dust clears. It was an incredibly personal story and that’s what Wood is attempting to do again with “Rebels”.
“Rebels” #1 begins what Wood himself has described as a “Northlanders” like epic that will focus on the people of the Revolutionary War. Instead of retreading over old history of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin, Wood, joined by artist Andrea Mutti and colorist Jordie Bellaire, focus in on the people themselves. The first issue begins in 1768 and introduces us to Seth Abbott, a young boy who’s introduced war at an early age when the British Empire’s forces, the “Redcoats” come from Albany and begin forcing farmers into giving up their land to the crown. We’re then taken to 1775 when Seth is an adult. By this point many of the most famous historical moments during this war have happened but they don’t matter to this plot because this is something far more personal.
Initially I was a little skeptical of “Rebels” because I don’t consider myself to be overly patriotic. I of course love the country I live in but I do acknowledge the problems that exist. “Rebels” takes place during a time that many movies, books and television shows have romanticized in every way possible. What sticks out the most about “Rebels” is the way that it feels distanced from all that. These men aren’t fighting for the flag or for the entire country, they just want what’s rightfully theirs back. They want to live the lives they were promised on the land they rightfully own and they’re willing to fight for this. It’s a sentiment that most people, especially Americans who grew up being taught all about this time period, can understand.
As I mentioned, I was cautious going into this because I was worried what this was. I was worried that I would end up reading a book that was light on character development and heavy on unfiltered patriotism. Instead, Wood matches what’s happening now (especially in Ferguson, MO) to what his characters are going through. I won’t say more because of the risk of spoiling things but it’s a great moment that will no doubt hit you emotionally the way it hit me. Seth is a great character who gets a ton of development early on here but I do worry about a couple of things. I want to get to know the female lead, Mercy, more because women in society, at this time, had none to little rights. I’m also curious to see if at any point we get into what’s happening to slaves and those freed slaves in the North. This pre-dates the Civil War of course but there’s definitely some story opportunity and a chance to do something meaningful. This issue was all set-up to something bigger but what the bigger thing is for Seth and Mercy is still a little unclear.
Andrea Mutti’s pencils are absolutely wonderful and the perfect fit for this story. Mutti details things just down to the right point. He adds a really great rugged quality to the uniforms and clothing, giving the book a very authentic feel. The character designs are all very unique and there’s something different about all the soldiers that fill up each panel. Mutti does an amazing job with the early pages in showing Seth’s initial fear in contrast to the way he appears as an adult. All the characters truly come to life through the varying facial expressions and real movement Mutti brings to the page. Jordie Bellaire, superstar colorist extraordinaire, handles the colors so well. She gives the book a real Western feel with her vibrant and lush color palette. This isn’t a grim and dark looking story. She works perfectly with Mutti by adding another layer to the art without losing the great pencils.
“Rebels” #1 is all introduction but wow is it ever an introduction. This is an action packed and dynamic first issue that sucks you in and doesn’t let go. If this issue is any indicator then “Rebels” is going to be a very special and memorable series. I’m fully on board for more.