Review – Rebels: These Free and Independent States #2 (Dark Horse Comics)

Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Writer: Brian Wood
Artwork: Andrea Mutti
Release Date: April 26, 2017

While walking through my local comic shop a week or so ago, I spotted an issue of Dark Horse’s original Rebels series and the cover immediately caught my attention. I picked up the issue, thumbed through it quickly and my interest was immediately heightened. I am familiar with Brian Wood’s writing already but Andrea Mutti is new to me, and the artwork in this book is beautiful. The subject matter also increased my desire to read it but I discovered I was way behind. I was going to keep it in my ‘must read list’ for when I could get my hands on the trade, but then I saw that a new volume was starting and, obviously, I snatched up the opportunity to review it!

I quickly devoured the first 10 issues of the first volume and was blown away with what Brian and Andrea have done with these moments in our history. To be able to take events that shaped our country and inject a new character with their own unique story and contributions to the events is incredible. The first volume follows Seth Abbot and his service in the Green Mountain Boys, and we discover that in his last stretch of service while he was away his wife Mercy had just given birth. And it’s their son, John Abbot, who is the main focus thus far in this new volume titled “These Free and Independent States.”

John is a savant who has an incredible wealth of knowledge about ships and their construction at a young age, so his parents take him to Boston to apprentice under a shipwright by the name of Mr. Nicholson. Fast-forward eight years and John is a senior apprentice who keeps to himself on his father’s request but is one of the brightest shipwrights in Boston. During this time the Barbary Wars are going on and the Americans are losing countless vessels to Barbary Corsairs. While this is going on Mr. Nicholson tells John that he knows his intellect about ships and their construction is far more than he lets on and that it may even surpass his own, so he wants John to help him design a newer bigger vessel to be named the “Constitution.”

Brian Wood has sucked me back into our country’s history in ways that I haven’t felt since grade school, maybe even more so. I know that the timeline of events doesn’t exactly match and that the characters are a fabrication of fiction, but this story still revolves around real historical events. As I write this review I am on the Internet looking at this time period and what was happening. So in ways Brian has sparked an interest again into our history and what shaped this country. He has done this in a medium that is usually filled with super powered beings or things of science fiction and fantasy, and he’s done it well.

Though the characters are fictional there’s no doubt they could have actually been there and achieved what they have done throughout the pages of Rebels. Brian creates strong dialogue between characters and even creates strong backstory for each. The Abbots feel as though they are a true American family that existed and contributed to our history. Not only that, but Brian manages to tackle issues that we still face today, ensuring the book remains relevant to readers not really interested in it for its references to our history. There is a beautiful few panels of dialogue between Mr. Nicholson and John that I believe can speak to every individual about acceptance and being who we are.

Andrea Mutti, does an amazing job with recreating the distinctive the setting of this book. You can tell the amount of work that has gone into researching the time period, and his attention to detail is outstanding. You truly feel as though you are an observer of every event that unfolds throughout the panels. He has also been able to give the visual storytelling an incredibly cinematic feel where the story flows from panel to panel, page to page. The locations created are sometimes small and simple, but at other times can be immense and incredible. There is a high sense of realism behind every panel that captures each moment perfectly and keeps you engaged in what is unfolding.

Even if you are not into this style of book, one that takes historical events and adds in fictional characters, I strongly recommend giving Rebels a try. If you’ve read a Brian Wood series before you’ll already know the man is talented, and when you throw in the accomplished artwork of Andrea Mutti, you really need to do yourself a favor and check this one out.

Rating: 5/5.

[Click to Enlarge]

The writer of this piece was: Shane Hoffman (aka “Hoff”)
You can also find Hoff on Twitter.

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