Rebels has taken us through all of the Thirteen Colonies, told stories from the perspective of women soldiers, adventure-seeking citizens, Native Americans, and at last a tragic British Soldier. Wood’s ten issue run on his latest historical fiction comic comes to an end, casting war in an ugly light (as it should be), through the eyes of a British private who never wanted to travel to the America in the first place. In a comic that could have otherwise easily painted the British as evil, Wood does the opposite, showing that these soldiers were just as afraid of war and death as their American counterparts. This issue is the story of a young British man who is wrongly accused of murder and given two choices, enlist or be sent to prison. His story is not uncommon to the soldiers who were unwillingly sent to the American colonies, and fear of violent punishment or death were really the only motivators for fighting. We see the Boston Massacre as a mistake, a rifle misfire leading to the death of dozens, and through this soldier’s eyes we see America as a beautiful wasteland, he hates it but cannot deny its glory. Men conscripted into service against their will, fighting a war that means nothing to them, but to the Colonists means everything. Regardless of their beliefs, the British have no choice but to fight in this grueling war.
The protagonist’s struggle is a tragic one, and he meets his end on the battlefield, far from home. In a dreamlike sequence artist Tristan Jones shows the British soldier wandering his final battlefield alone, the smoke and mist swirling around him, blood dripping from his wounds. He sees only the corpses of other fallen soldiers, he hears something in the fog and fires blindly, a shot comes back but this one finds its mark and he falls. The echo of “Long live Britannia” float across the battlefield as the victorious American soldier pulls out his own banner, the Revolution has been won and the British can never reclaim the colonies.
It is this last scene that really lingered with me, I thought that Wood’s series was hit or miss, but at its best it was a poignant commentary on war, and an intelligent reflection on the founding of our country. A few single issues fell flat, but overall it’s a good read, especially for those historical fiction buffs. It definitely achieved its goal of being about the little guy, without any use of Washington or other colonial heroes this was a comic for the people. Wood’s ability to subtly comment on war while still allowing his story room to breathe is one of his strongest points. Ultimately this ten issue run showcases sorrow, pain, and loss through voices that are not commonly heard in history or in comics for that matter. And for that alone this comic is a victory.
Rebels #10 Writer: Brian Wood Artist: Tristan Jones Publisher: Dark Horse Comics Price: $3.99 Release Date: 1/13/16 Format: Ongoing; Print/Digital