Book Review: Rebels by Brian Wood

Rebels writer Brian Wood

If the smashing success of Hamilton is any indication, Americans are hungry for a hard-hitting retelling of the founding of America. Rebels, Brian Wood’s entry into the field, fits the bill perfectly. With the second graphic novel in the series just published, Wood is pushing the fraught field of the early years of the American republic to new heights.
Rebels is primarily the story of the Abbott family’s experiences in during the first 40 years of American history. In the first volume, “A Well Regulated Militia,” Seth Abbott is a member of the Green Mountain Boys, a colonial militia from Vermont. Abbott is a quiet, competent everyman who is willing to sacrifice anything for his own freedom.
The story continues in the second volume, “These Free and Independent States,” set after the Revolutionary War. America struggles to establish itself as a strong and independent nation in this story. Seth Abbott’s son, John, becomes a ship-builder and then a crew member on the USS Constitution. Whether fighting against the British (in both the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812), the Barbary Pirates, or others, Wood always keeps his characters strong, determined, and somewhat morally ambiguous.
Wood isn’t afraid to question some of the actions of American heroes either. Each volume contains challenging stories about American leaders’ injustices. His focus on the regular people engaged in these major, world-changing events is laudable. Rebels feels more immediate and relatable by focusing on a farmer and a ship-builder.

Rebels artist Andrea Mutti

Of course, any review of a graphic novel is incomplete without a consideration of the art! The art for the main storyline in each volume is created by Andrea Mutti. Mutti’s art feels lived-in—these are rough and tumble people living in the real world. There’s a palpable emotional intensity to the artwork, whether the artwork is showing a battlefield or a quiet moment between a father and his son. Mutti is a master at framing as well. Every page is well-composed and clearly shows the action of the story.

If you’ve listened to Hamilton a thousand times and need a different story about these massive events that still feels like its happening today, grab Rebels. It’s exciting, challenging, gripping, and so much more. Brian Wood never disappoints, and this is him as good as ever!

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