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Review: Rebels "These Free and Independent States" #1


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By Andy Frisk
Mar 27, 2017 - 21:38

Brian Wood (DMZ, Demo, Northlanders) is a decidedly and unabashedly political writer. Going all the way back to Channel Zero, published by Image Comics, his politics have also been unabashedly progressive and liberal. His Dark Horse Comics series Rebels is much more moderate in the sense that it transcends both sides of the aisle, so to speak. It's definitely progressive, since the story's theme is the founding, and early years, of the American Republic, but would in no way upset conservative readers, the extreme likes of which who are (deplorably) overjoyed that Marvel Comics appears to be moving away from social justice story lines.

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Rebels "These Free and Independent States," is actually the second volume of Wood's "Historical Epic of America's Founding" and it ties into the first as Rebels TFAIS tells the story of the first series' protagonist, Seth Abbott's, savant son who has an uncanny ability to remember everything about every ship he has ever studied...and build it. His talent comes in handy eventually as fledgling United States merchant ships are suffering devastating losses at the hand of Barbary Pirates in the Mediterranean Sea. Concurrently, Wood tells the story of Alexander Hamilton's arguments before Congress in favor of a tax designed to raise a navy. The give and take between Hamilton and his fellow statesmen is very reminiscent of the types of debates that happen even today in the US Congress. As you can see, Wood brilliantly casts both real historical characters alongside fictional, but highly realistic, ones whose stories are equally as important to the early days of The United States.

Rebels is something that Americans could really use right now. It's a fictionalized, and therefore less academically intimidating, look at what has already happened, and what men have sacrificed and died for, that has already made America great, rather than a fictional narrative spun by a phony celebrity, who stumbled into the greatest office in the land, about a non-existent time when America was great for just a few. What's so admirable about Wood's work here is that it contains nothing antithetical to his political views as they've been expressed in his other works. He really doesn't have to, because the the American story, at its heart over the centuries is a progressive one in nature.

Series artist Andrea Mutti (Prometheus: Life and Death) brings Wood's vision to life with a powerful sense of realism and emotional validity that is rare in much of today's sequential art. Mutti draws entire pages that move the narrative along without a single word bubble or expository block. His attention to detail is beautiful and historically accurate. You can tell that Mutti really has done his research. The story's quiet moments are just as powerful as his naval sea battle packed ones. The realism lends a sense of powerful historicity to the tale. If the art was impressionistic, as it often is in much sequential art, the story would lack it's strength as a valid piece of historical fiction.

Rebels tells the story of the founding of the American experience as well as it does the American Republic. It is an inherently progressive tale, but Wood keeps this point a very subtle one, while betraying none of the politics of the time, or of his own. This makes Rebels a unique experience as well as a rewarding and essential one.

Rating: 10 /10


Last Updated: May 15, 2017 - 12:13

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