“Rebels” tells the story of Revolutionary War era militiamen in New Hampshire who look to keep their independence in the face of increasing military occupancy as British colonialism wanes. It’s also the origin story of Seth Abbott, a man born into a militia family who eventually goes into the family business.
Seth is a career soldier, bred as such from an early age by his father, a hard man whose existence revolved around the militia. Seth’s main drive can be traced back to the approval he sought from his dad as a child. He speaks few words and lets his actions do most of his talking, like his father did before him. He’s a man of righteousness that believes in equality, a good man born in bad times. Wood unfolds the story across Seth’s development, showing us his firsts: first attack, first hero moments, first love. It connects the reader to Seth by humanizing him even as violence explodes all around him. The script reads like a good biopic and, though most of the British military is given a one-dimensional point of view, their positions are sympathetic through Seth’s distaste for violent means. One of Wood’s biggest strengths is creating rich, believable characters with clear voices and “Rebels” is no different. Though the period work is centuries removed from our own, he gives readers a cast of people, not just drawings. Seth is strong when he needs be, quiet when necessary and sweet and caring in the small moments with his future wife Mercy.
Andrea Mutti delivers fast-paced action and panels full of emoting, active characters with spot-on design work. The showdown at the courthouse is full of many different feelings, which Mutti shows through the conflicting emotions on the faces of all the characters involved. There are many crowded character panels, but at no point does it feel claustrophobic. His work has some grit, showing the sweat and hard living of the early days of the country. The panels are straightforward and the storytelling is clear and the overall look is, of course, benefitted by colorist Jordie Bellaire’s incredible palette. She gives each page the soft balance of autumnal woodsy hues, making the pops of red in every British uniform a clear call to action. The art and colors work in tandem incredibly well, creating visuals that breathe a distinct a life into the story.
Though it’s set against the backdrop of the American Revolution, Wood and Mutti’s “Rebels” is about basic human rights and the freedom to grow into a person or a country on one’s own time. As the series expands its scope, it will be interesting to see how much of Seth’s more basic wants are sacrificed for the greater cause. “Rebels” #1 is a good comic book full of solid characterization and beautiful art.