A young New Hampshire boy comes of age during the Revolutionary War. Is it good?
Rebels #1 (Dark Horse Comics)
Written by Brian Wood with artwork by Andrea Mutti, the story of Rebels #1 follows a young man by the name of Seth Abbott as he is taught the ways of a woodsman and hunter by his father and later details one of his first major encounters with British Redcoats that sets him on a path with a famous Virginian general.
The beginning of the story has a pretty good hook detailing a hard-working childhood with a stoic and reserved father figure that quickly transitions into a teaching sequence filled with suspense. However, the story quickly becomes filled with exposition once it transitions to an older albeit still young Seth Abbott. There are entire pages detailing everything from character and geographical descriptions to historical context and information about the setting and a lot of it is pure overkill. Wood doesn’t need to tell us Ezekiel Learned is like a brother to Seth — he should allow the artist, or at least the story he is telling us, show it. Let’s see them act like brothers with each other in both their actions and their words. This is just one example that happens repeatedly throughout the book.
The writing in general was also a little disappointing; it might be that I am currently reading texts from the era, but I was hoping for language from the time period to be used. Wood does do a good job of describing the mood of the people back then and explaining the reasons for their upheaval, although the way he describes it is a little heavy-handed and can come off preachy. However, it does have ties to certain activities happening right now regarding property forfeiture.
Andrea Mutti’s artwork captures the time period wonderfully. Her landscape panels really allow you to step back in time and feel as if you are right there sitting in the woods next to Seth Abbott. However, there are some continuity issues, especially when you see two panels that are supposed to be giving you the same sight line showing completely different trees and even rocks. It can really jar you out of the comic.
The build-up panels to the action sequences fill you with apprehension. Mutti does this by choosing excellent points of view looking from the backs of musket-bearing Redcoat soldiers as they take aim against unarmed farmers in a courthouse. Verbal confrontations between the Redcoats and farmers leave one feeling all hell will break loose at any moment. However, the main action sequence is a little confusing with action happening both inside and outside a courthouse. It is difficult to determine whether or not the actions are taking place simultaneously or in sequential order.
Outside of the action sequences many panels do not match up with the exposition being used. There is a panel with farmers being led to a prison yet the description of the panel is about a raid on the prison freeing the prisoners. One of the most egregious errors is Abbott’s wedding; it isn’t even depicted. Instead, you are left with scenes of Abbott returning to Mercy, his bride, after the ruckus in the courthouse. It is underwhelming.
Is It Good?
I really wanted to like Rebels #1. It is a story about property rights, lower taxes, and freedom — things which I highly value. However, Wood’s overuse of exposition really bogs the story down and he hampers Andrea Mutti’s ability to portray everything he is describing. There were some bright spots with the courthouse action panels and verbal fights creating a lot of apprehension as well as dislike of the Redcoats. The issue felt too much like a setup for the rest of the series which will hopefully drop the narrative exposition going forward. There are some potentially dynamic characters here; let’s hope Wood and Mutti are able to develop them.