"Rebel Blood" Trade Paperback Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Image Comics
Originally published as Rebel Blood #1 - #4
Written by Alex Link
Illustrated by Riley Rossmo
2012, 122 Pages
Trade paperback released on October 2nd, 2012
I will never understand why people go camping. You have to sleep on the ground and crap in the woods. It's cold and uncomfortable and you can get eaten by a bear. Despite this, people still go out into the wilderness all the time. Hopefully Rebel Blood will have campers thinking twice before they pitch their next tent. The comic centers on a forest ranger named Chuck, who finds himself in the middle of a widespread infection that's turning the local wildlife and town residents into flesh-craving crazies covered in tumors. To make things worse, Chuck could also be a little off his rocker to begin with.
Rebel Blood is a struggle for Chuck as he tries to figure out what's real. He'll play through a scene in his head over and over trying to find the best course of action. As a reader, you're left wondering which one actually happened or if any of them did at all. These monsters seem to speak directly to him and they're gunning for him and his family. This is personal. Or is it all in Chuck's head?
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If this is all make-believe, it's a very convincing lie. The townspeople are infected with a disease that's turned them into bloodthirsty lunatics, but they still hold on to some semblance of intelligence. They're able to plan and attack, similar to the infected in Garth Ennis' Crossed.
I'm torn as to what is the most disturbing animal in Rebel Blood. On the one hand, there's the creepy deer-head on the body of a man with his entrails falling out. Then there are the rats. People are afraid of rats to begin with. These aren't your normal ones. These are decomposing. They're bodies are covered in strange growths that look like they'll pop at any moment, oozing pus and blood everywhere. (I really hope you're not eating while reading this review.) The rats attack as a group and Chuck has to fight them off with his trusty hatchet.
Rebel Blood would be an unsettling story on its own, but it is made so much better by Riley Rossmo's artwork. I was struck by a feeling of loneliness for Chuck right away. Even when he's at work with other people, the man is all by himself, struggling to figure out where he belongs. You can see this in his eyes and his mannerisms. Maybe that's why he was targeted by these monsters.
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I've described the creatures that pop up throughout the comic already, but suffice it to say, it's something you're going to have to see to believe. There's just so much blood. People can quickly change from totally normal to completely deranged. Halfway through the story, Chuck comes across a pregnant woman stranded on the side of the road with a broken down car. Things look alright at first, but as he gets closer he sees that her face is covered in blood as she jumps at his vehicle. I'm not going to spoil the next few pages, but it's easily the most disturbing section of the book. I'm getting chills just thinking about it.
Rossmo also experiments with page layouts a bit. He'll have a large panel with one aspect that's moving throughout. For example, there's a page where Chuck is driving down a country road. The background stays the same, but his truck is drawn several times as he makes his way down the road, swerving along the way. This technique appears a few times in Rebel Blood and it's a nice change of pace.
Rebel Blood is a bizarre trip through a piece of a man's life. It can be confusing at times, especially when Chuck is reliving a scene with no warning or way to distinguish it from anything else. Fortunately the end packs a punch that makes the whole journey more than worthwhile. Now I just have to shake the image of a rabid, tumor-filled bear from my mind.
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