COMIC REVIEW: Rebels: These Free And Independent States #2

Rebels Free And Independent States 2

The second installment of Brian Wood’s second Rebels story is a little dispiriting. I mentioned in my review of the first issue that this tale has a clear sense of place and time, but not much about why that place and time was worth visiting.  This second installment does nothing to solve that problem. If anything, it adds to it. Frustratingly for a story riffing off of genuine historical events, it’s still difficult to see where things are headed.

That’s not to say nothing happens here. On the contrary, we get punches flying and pistols firing. There are midnight missions and illicit meetings. Conflicts of various forms brew both abroad and at home. The story’s focus expands beyond the forging of the US Navy to include resentment against the Quakers and the growing abolitionist movement. None of these elements are individually poor choices of topic, but the sheer number of them leave the issue without a sense of structure. There’s too much thread and not enough knitting. Nothing here binds the different pieces of the story together beyond John Abbott, someone who we still barely know.

To be fair, Wood’s a steady hand, so he takes steps to mitigate this central problem. The script ensures Andrea Mutti’s crisp pencils get the space they need to breathe. Beyond that, the book avoids feeling cluttered by offering a minimum of dialogue – many panels include only quotes from letters or legal documents, or are free of words altogether. As a result, though, the story ends up feeling even more disjointed and under-explored. This becomes particularly problematic in the cliffhanger, which revolves around a character we’ve never met and a grudge we don’t know the specifics of. It’s not hard to guess roughly what’s going on, but enabling inference is no substitute for characterisation.

Still, Mutti’s pencils and Lauren Affe’s colours remain strong, and once again make the past feel genuinely different, rather than just a place where people dress and talk strangely. And with three issues left, there’s obviously still plenty of time to start filling in the gaps.

I’m uncomfortably aware I said something pretty similar last time, though. For now, like the still-unfinished frigates which form the series’ centre, the story seems in desperate need of a rudder and a strong hand at the tiller. At present, it feels like we’re simply drifting.

Title: Rebels: These Free And Independent States

Publisher: Dark Horse

Rating: 2.5/5

Reviewer: Ric Crossman

More from the world of Geek Syndicate

%d bloggers like this: