That I’ve been in love with Rebels for a long time is not a surprise to anyone–you only have to look around the site to see it. That I’m still in love with it is more surprising. I can count on one hand the number of comics that have kept me engaged for the long haul–comics that haven’t had a bad issue in the run. Rebels is one of them. Even issue #7, which is a standalone and doesn’t follow the Abbott family, is great. In fact, although it’s hard to say it, #7 might be the strongest issue of the run so far. Telling the story of “Molly Pitcher” Sarah Hull, writer Brian Wood shows us that the cause of independence didn’t just belong to men–it was also cherished and fought for by women.
You probably caught the quotation marks around Molly Pitcher in that previous paragraph. That’s because the name has taken on folklore status: there were many women who brought water to the men on the battlefield in the war and it’s believed that Molly Pitcher was a nickname for any woman who did so. In this issue, Wood tells the story of one of these women, Sarah Hull, who took her husband’s place on a cannon crew at the Battle of Saratoga after he was wounded. It also follows her saga after the war when she was widowed, and what the fledgling United States government thought of her service (hint: it’s not pretty).
I loved Wood’s telling of this heroic (if fictionalized) woman. He has fully grasped and then portrayed that women were as fierce in their pursuit of American independence as men, and then used his end pages to explain why this story was so important to him. I read his lines and felt an instant connection to a fellow history geek, in the best sense of that term. Because the story was so meaningful to him, he was able to create a strong and multi-dimensional heroine within the limits of a single comic book issue, which is no mean feat. And Sarah Hull is one of my favorite characters in comics this year–she’s strong, resilient, and I like to think I’d be something like her if I had to walk in her shoes.
The other members of the artistic team also add beauty to this book. Tula Lotay’s cover image of Sarah shows a fierce woman who is not about to give in to the British. Matthew Woodson, filling in for regular series artist Andrea Mutti, has created artwork that references Mutti’s Rebels drawings but at the same time is distinctive and beautiful in its own right. I particularly liked the iron in old Sarah Hull’s personality, clearly visible in Woodson’s drawings. Jordie Bellaire’s colors are always a treat, lending a vintage feel to the panels while still showing that life in this era was vibrant, not black and white. And Jared K. Fletcher’s lettering, particularly for Samuel Hull’s letter to the government, has a wonderful feel for the correspondence of the time–it feels authentic.
Rebels is still one of my favorite books, and this issue is truly a standalone; you don’t need to know anything about the rest of the series to enjoy and appreciate this one (and I hope you do). I’m giving this book five out of five Lightning Bolts and would encourage anyone with a love of history (colonial, women’s, etc.) to pick it up. You won’t regret it.
See the rest of the 6 page preview at Darkhorse.com
Writer: Brian Wood
Artist: Matthew Woodson
Colors: Jordie Bellaire
Letters: Jared K. Fletcher
Cover: Tula Lotay
Publisher: Dark Horse
Release Date: October 14, 2015