You know the Revolutionary War’s origins, and you’ve studied the major battles and George Washington. What do you know about the ordinary individuals? Rebels: A Well-Regulated Militia tells the stories of average people who stepped in to help or hinder the cause.
Rebels begins with the story of Seth Abbott, a taciturn Green Mountain Boy who transported cannons for General Washington and served in the army while leaving his wife and child to fend for themselves in the New England wilderness. Rebels then moves on to tell the stories of individuals from both sides of the conflict. Stories follow individuals such as Silence, a young printing press owner who plastered Boston with anti-British posters; Sarah Hull, a woman who took her husband’s place manning a cannon; a former slave turned Loyalist spy; and a reluctant British soldier. The result is an engaging collection of stories that explores the birth of America through the eyes of minor players.
In Rebels’ notes section, writer Brian Wood states he is trying to create a collection of new American legends. By letting characters’ actions speak for themselves, Wood effectively uses these stories to reach his goal. The art in Rebels effectively immerses the reader in these stories. Although no one artist draws the entirety of the comic, Jordie Bellaire’s colors—which give a gritty sense to combat scenes and brighter colors to peaceful ones—effectively set the mood. The artists all excel in portraying the conditions these individuals faced; there are several scenes of conflict, where the reader almost seems to be right in the thick of it alongside the characters.
Wood gets top marks for choosing stories that point out the imperfections of the liberty and rights achieved. For example, Sarah Hull, who fought in the war but, unlike her husband, was unable to draw a pension is a key example of gender inequality. This story, as well as others, effectively demonstrate that, while the United States won independence from Britain, not everyone enjoyed the same rights.
Despite its strengths, Rebels as a collection feels somewhat unbalanced. Rebels focuses on Sam Abbott’s story, but does not give equal attention to the other stories. For example, this reviewer would have loved to know more about Silence, but Rebels does not address Silence’s fate during and after the Revolution. The inclusion of the British soldier’s story, while it does add a degree of nuance, does not seem to fit in a book that focuses on American individuals. These two factors leads the reviewer to believe that this book does not fit together as well as it could have.
Despite its faults, Rebels’ skillful art and engaging tales make this a solid addition to most library graphic novel collections. Teens and adults interested in American Revolutionary history will gravitate toward this one, and Rebels will appeal to individuals looking for some good myth-like historical tales in which to immerse themselves.
Rebels: A Well-Regulated Militia
by Brian Wood
Art by Andrea Mutti
Dark Horse, 2016
Publisher Age Rating: 14+