Historically accurate comic books are not my thing. I say that so there’s context to everything else I have to say about Rebels. I have no idea if it’s accurate or not. I don’t, I know a decent amount of history, but nothing deep about any one period of time and so this could all be made up. It is a comic book after all. I doubt it is since writer Brian Wood seems to have done a lot of research and at times that bleeds through into the writing. Much in the way that I don’t like some of Matt Fraction’s writing, Wood’s writing here comes across as a research paper at times. That said, the story was very entertaining and at times I flipped through it at a rapid pace.
To sum up the story, it’s about the Green Mountain Boys and the beginning of the Revolutionary War. As is the case with all such historical stories though, it’s about so much more. We meet our main character Seth. We begin with him as a boy and quickly establish his relationship with his father, a man of few words. It all builds up towards one day in which his father and several other men of the area are planning an ambush on some Red Coats. Seth’s father has put him in charge of giving the order to fire and a great scene plays out. This single event changes Seth into the man we meet after.
Now an adult Seth and his best friend Ezekiel run through the woods like big children until they come across the Tucker farm. They’re hiding out like children when Mr. Tucker’s daughter Mercy gets the jump on them. Apparently the Tuckers aren’t fans of people on their land, but as Mercy informs them her father gave the land over to the Sheriff three days prior. Seth tells her that he’ll get the papers back and we soon see that Tucker wasn’t the first farmer to be forced into giving up his land.
The pacing is what keeps this story from being a history book of bullet points. In fact it at times reads like a history book especially towards the end. While this first issue is solid I don’t quite know what will happen in the next issue. A lot of historically based fiction tends to jump to the big moments in history leaving huge gaps in the narrative and giant shifts in the characters personalities. I’m not saying that will happen here, but it could easily head that way and if I had to guess I would say it will.
Wood provides realistic dialogue, but not so realistic that it’s unreadable. Much like his work on Northlanders in which he provided realistic yet modern Viking dialogue, the same can be said here. It’s a bit more realistic here though. Seth’s narration is interesting as it seems very different from his personality on the page. He intentionally tells the reader that he doesn’t speak much, but rather lets his gun and his actions do the talking for him. That’s fine, but there’s a softness to the character via the narration and I wonder how that will play out. Will the narration grow colder as war begins to affect him or will he keep that soft inner voice while continuing to present a harder outer persona?
The art adds a lot to the story. With this being a comic and not a movie or TV show it avoids a lot of the boring ass visuals that are usual associated with historical dramas. The thing about the genre is that you’re basically just looking at straight on imagery and no one is focused on the visuals as long as everyone is dressed accurately and there’s no bottles of water hanging out in the scene. Again I’m comparing this to its film and TV counterparts because I can’t think of more than one half way decent historical comic book that’s not about Jack the Ripper.
Andrea Mutti’s artwork adds a flair to the story. There’s a variety of angles used and overall the setting is well established. It really looks like the colonial days of America based on paintings and descriptions I’ve seen, but also in general the geographical location in which it’s taking place. Whereas too much research hurts the writing, it only serves to make the art more interesting. In particular I enjoyed the way that Mutti presented the musket fire as it really captured the intensity of the weapon.
All in all this was a solid first issue. It didn’t knock my socks off, but I’m willing to come back for the second issue. I really don’t know if it’ll hold my attention for the entire series, but that’s just my personal taste. If you enjoy historical dramas then you’re probably foaming at the mouth for Rebels #1, but if you’ve never read one in comic book form then why not give this one a shot.