I’ve been reading historical fiction for years, and some of my favorite historical novels of all time have been written by John Jakes: The North and South Trilogy and The Kent Family Chronicles. I like them because they tell the history of America, but they do it through the eyes of a family and make huge issues like independence immediate and easy to grasp for a twenty-first century audience. I was happy to see Rebels continue to use this technique in issue #2. Although it’s bookended by war scenes, this issue is primarily the story of a married couple in the midst of a war, with all that entails. I know that some readers will more interested in the insurgent fighting style of the Green Mountain Boys (and Rebels does an excellent job of showing their guerrilla fighting techniques), but for me, the scenes featuring Mercy and Seth Abbott are the most gripping of the issue.
Brian Wood thankfully doesn’t shy away from giving a woman’s perspective, and the story definitely benefits from this. I loved the depictions of life as a woman on the frontier with the myriad of chores that literally came with the territory: grow or kill your own food, cook it, mend clothes, take care of the house, and fall into an exhausted stupor at the end of the day, only to do it all again the next day. And when Seth returns from the fighting, the conversations of the young married couple (Seth turns seventeen in this issue) echo the larger debates that were happening in the American colonies at the time. Seth is for following Ethan Allen and joining the Continental cause, Mercy doesn’t understand why he would want to fight for Virginians and Carolinians. Between them, we get a very good sense of the colonists’ varying points of view.
My enjoyment of Andrea Mutti’s art and Jordie Bellaire’s colors hasn’t diminished with this issue. It’s reminiscent of woodcuts, particularly in the night scenes, and reflects the time period very well. Tula Lotay’s cover is a little less period-specific and sort of reminds me of that copy of The Joy of Sex that all our parents had in the 70s and 80s. This is not a bad thing, because even though we’re separated from Mercy and Seth by more than 200 years, it’s a good reminder that no matter the time period some things never change.
I give bonus points to the creative team for using the “Join or Die” woodcut by Ben Franklin, because Ben Franklin (also it nicely encapsulates the fight that Seth and Mercy are having in this issue.) I also appreciated the disclaimer “Rebels is a story of historical fiction, and in some places time and events have been compressed to fit the narrative, and some key historical figures appear in locations where perhaps the never were. The writer assumes all responsibility.” It’s good to know where to expect facts, where to expect fiction, and where to expect a mixture of both. Brian Wood respects the story he’s telling, and I have faith that any time a historical figure is in a place where he/she never was, it’s for good reason.
I’m still in love with the way Rebels does history right, and issue #2 gets 4.5 out of 5 Lightning Bolts.
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Writer: Brian Wood
Artist: Andrea Mutti
Colors: Jordie Bellaire
Letters: Jared K. Fletcher
Cover: Tula Lotay
Publisher: Dark Horse
Release: May 13, 2015