Exclusive preview: ‘Rebels’ writer Brian Wood explores the Revolutionary War

May 12, 2015 | 11:07 a.m.

The American Revolution will be serialized in Brian Wood and Andrea Mutti’s new Dark Horse limited series “Rebels.”

Hero Complex readers get an exclusive look at issue No. 2 at the top of the post, along with a few words from Wood about the origins of “Rebels,” its fresh take on a familiar historical era, and what readers can expect in upcoming issues.

Over the last decade and a half, the prolific Wood has endowed his stories, settings and characters with an uncanny — and heavily researched — authenticity, whether he’s focusing on restless contemporary youths in “Local,” battle-hardened Vikings in Vertigo’s “Northlanders,” embedded journalists chronicling America’s Second Civil War in the speculative post-9/11 thriller “DMZ,” or environmentalists scraping by after the world has ended in the recent “Massive.”

Page 17 from "Rebels" No. 2, by writer Brian Wood and artist Andrea Mutti. (Dark Horse)

Page 17 from “Rebels” No. 2, by writer Brian Wood and artist Andrea Mutti. (Dark Horse)

Now, he’s bringing that sense of verisimilitude to a historical tale that mixes action and politics and explores continuing themes of patriotism, revolution and war.

Set in the early days of the American Revolution, Dark Horse’s 10-issue “Rebels” recounts the adventures of the Seth Abbott, a member of the Green Mountain Boys — America’s first militia — in what would become Wood’s native Vermont. With Seth at the frontlines of the growing conflict with armies loyal to the British crown, he and his new wife, Mercy, are forced to confront the idea that the fight doesn’t just begin and end in their own backyard. But joining the larger battle could threaten their new family.

It’s a story that seems close to Wood’s heart.

“For the longest time, I knew I wanted to do another historical comics series, one to follow ‘Northlanders,'” Wood said. “And I was looking for a way to challenge myself, to pick a topic that I didn’t see anyone else doing that I felt I could deliver on. Colonial America seem to be the right mix — it’s history that everyone out there knows at least a little bit about, and something I felt I could use to comment on the present as well as the past. Plus, as a native Vermonter, this is local history for me.”

Wood’s co-conspirators on “Rebels” — Mutti and colorist Jordie Bellaire — helped bring the era to life on the page.

“Andrea came onboard pretty much immediately,” Wood said. “I had seen some pages from some other project of his online that had a few historical elements in it — old ships and conquistadors, I think — so I approached him thinking that at the very least he wouldn’t shy away from the challenge of drawing historically accurate scenes, and he turned out to be very enthusiastic. And Jordie colors a lot of the books I write, and she is incredibly talented, so I’m lucky to have her on ‘Rebels.'”

With those artists in tow, Wood was able to re-create a thoroughly researched colonial America, keeping very specific geographic references and slang intact.

Page 18 from "Rebels" No. 2, by writer Brian Wood and artist Andrea Mutti. (Dark Horse)

Page 18 from “Rebels” No. 2, by writer Brian Wood and artist Andrea Mutti. (Dark Horse)

“One detail on ‘Rebels’ I personally enjoy is the speech patterns I give the Vermonters in the story, which always flags the Microsoft Word auto-editor, as well as the proofreaders at Dark Horse, since it’s breaking all the rules of grammar,” Wood said. “But it’s important to me to get those kinds of details right. It makes it come alive for me.”

Another way “Rebels” is grounded in historical reality is through the introduction of nonfiction characters. Ethan Allen, a war hero and one of the founders of Vermont, plays a key role in the first two issues, and Wood promises that Seth and Mercy will cross paths with other real-life historical figures as well.

“We actually have Washington in the story in issue No. 4 along with Benedict Arnold,” he revealed. “Later in the year we’ll see Jane Mecom, Ben Franklin’s sister. I think it’s a good idea to drop these people in from time to time for context, but part of the point of ‘Rebels’ is to not re-tell the same stories everyone’s heard about these famous people, but to find the untold stories, the stories behind the folktales, and tell those instead. So you can expect famous cameos, but no more than that.”

Those public figures of 18th century America are often referred to as “patriots” — a term that has been misused, misappropriated and/or misunderstood in recent years, he said.

“I go into this in greater detail in an essay in the back of  No. 2,” Wood stated, “but, put briefly, I think current events and politics have turned the idea of patriotism into an extreme partisan position, where you get lumped in with a whole lot of really unpleasant people with ugly beliefs.”

He continued: “Part of my process in writing ‘Rebels’ is feeling OK in talking openly about my own thoughts and opinions and refusing to be categorized one way or the other. I’d like readers of ‘Rebels’ to understand that, and just because groups like the tea party use and misuse this history doesn’t mean it’s not something you can be proud of.”

‘REBELS’: Issue No. 2 cover | No. 2, page 17 | Page 18 | Page 19 | Page 20

Take a closer look at “Rebels” with an exclusive preview of the series’ exciting second issue (above), which goes on sale this week. The issue’s climactic action scene finds Seth and his friend Ezekiel attempting to capsize a British ship carrying large granite blocks intended to be used to build a fort. As grittily rendered by Mutti, the episode underlines the militia’s grim determination in the face of overwhelming opposition.

Although “Rebels” is currently taking up much of Wood’s time, he’s already got a new project — the highly anticipated “Starve” — on the way.

A satirical look at foodie culture that takes place in a dystopian future where food is scarce, Image Comics’ “Starve” reunites Wood with artist Danijel Zezelj, who worked on “The Massive” and “Northlanders.” The debut issue of “Starve” drops June 10.

Meanwhile, “Rebels” No. 2 arrives in stores Wednesday.

— Dave Lewis | @LATHeroComplex

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