REVIEW: Rebel Blood #1

Rebel Blood #1

Written by Riley Rossmo and Alex Link
Drawn by Riley Rossmo

$3.50 /  22 pages / Color

Published by Image Comics

 

It takes five pages – nearly a quarter of the book – to get to the first piece of dialogue in Rebel Blood #1. It’s a gutsy move, especially in a brand-new series. It’s also an early sign of the confidence with which Alex Link and Riley Rossmo are approaching their new comic.

Rebel Blood, written by Link and Rossmo and drawn by Rossmo, isn’t a zombie book. Not exactly. It’s a contagion book. An infection book. A mutation book. Something is rotten in the wooded climes of the book, and it’s rotting the animals along with the people.

The main character in the book, Chuck Neville, doesn’t have a lot going for him. A former firefighter who had a nasty accident on the job, Chuck has been relegated to staffing a fire tower. I don’t know the vagaries of firefighting, but it seems like the equivalent of a detective being busted down to harbor patrol. Chuck has a wife and son, but his reassignment puts a major strain on the relationship. Stuck looking for forest fires in his “landlocked lighthouse” of Fire Tower 6, our protagonist has little contact with the outside world beyond a local poacher, a research assistant, and his radio.

Mostly, Chuck has his own thoughts to keep him company. He’s not Walter Mitty, but the lonely firefighter has an active imagination. When a call from Whitlock Law Enforcement warns that people with “significant, uh, mutations” are tearing each other apart, reality Chuck and fantasy Chuck both spring into action.

Rebel Blood #1 isn’t told in a linear fashion, though Rossmo and Link hold the reader’s hand enough that it isn’t disorienting. The pages that start off the book are after that fateful radio call – the mutation made it to the wolves, and Chuck is stuck with them in the woods. After the single spoken line in those pages, we drop back to before the infection hit and follow Neville’s on-the-job accident in parallel with a visit home from the tower. It’s a delicate high-wire act moving between four different times and places in the first third of the book. Visual cues from the writers are a nice anchor, with different colors in the captions and color palettes in the scenes differentiating one place from the next.

After a warning of the odd mutations and an order to not come into town , Chuck (of course) heads into town. He has a family to save, after all. This decision sends us tumbling into the world of Chuck’s active imagination. We see, over and over, different possible outcomes of his ill-reasoned journey. It’s a bit like the Community episode “Remedial Chaos Theory” – we see, in quick succession, a number of Neville’s possible futures. A green pall colors the pages of Chuck’s fantasies, and the stark, high-contrast of black trees and white snow snaps us back to reality.

Through these imagined scenes we get a good look at what kind of character Chuck is. He’s selfish, selfless, kind, cruel, smart and clueless. He may be a coward, but he wants to be a hero. He’s full of the contradictions we all are, and he’s obviously struggling with them throughout the book. By hitting us with a bunch of different possible outcomes, and by ending the book before we see the real one, the 22 pages end in flux. We’re left wondering not what kind of a guy Chuck is, but what kind he’ll choose to be. It’s fantastic final panel.

Two common signs of a good single issue? No idea exactly what will happen next, and a pressing desire to find out. Check and check.

While co-author Alex Link is new to the comics game, longtime Image fans will recognize Riley Rossmo’s art. As the artist on ProofCowboy Ninja Viking and Green Wake, the artist has drawn widespread acclaim for his sketchy, fluid style. In Rebel Blood, the kinetic energy of Rossmo’s work is in full effect – if you close your eyes while reading, the panels seem to keep moving without you.With bright blood and gore against grim backgrounds, and pristine snow against dark trees. Rossmo uses extreme contrast on nearly every page. The preview panels below give you a sense of how the artist captures action, but his quieter scenes are just as engaging. This is a lovely book, and a treat to look at.

Look, I’ll level here. I know you’re not interested in another zombie story. I wasn’t either. Neither is Image, who publicly told creators to stay away from the trope. Though the premise of Rebel Blood may sound a bit like a zombie story (infection mutates local populace, terrifies local man, more at 11), trust me when I say that Rossmo and Link have created a story all their own. Fueled by striking art and an unconventional structure, this book is unlike any other.

Story: 4 / Art: 5 / Overall: 5

(Out of 5)

Comments

  1. i’m excited to check this out…..glad to see it got a nice review.

  2. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    Fantastic stuff, Josh. You did a great job relating Chuck’s character here. Your thoughts on the potential for the protagonist and the series in general mirrors my own. Lots of possibilities.

  3. Good stuff, I think I will check it out. I’m a fan of Rossmo since Green Wake and he did some cool stuff in Monocyte lately.

  4. Is Monocyte a title or an Indie publisher? If it’s a title, who’s it through?

  5. Ah, a good Cronenburg-esque body horror series!

  6. Just finished reading it and found it slightly compelling. The jumping back and forth in time in addition to the imagined scenario’s of his journey/act to save his family was a bit confusing and turned me off from wanting to buy the 2nd issue. I’ll have to give it some thought.

    • This first issue had its merits, but I do agree that the flashbacks in conjunction with the imagined scenarios did make it confusing at times. Since this is only a miniseries I will however see it through to the end, especially because of Rossmo.