Review - Rebel Blood #1

A comic is both art and writing. The art tells a story alongside the writing, with the words usually advancing things through dialogue. It's a combination that's worked well to this point and will continue to work. Sometimes though an absence of dialogue is a good thing. Opening a comic with five pages sans dialogue is a rebellious thing.

Rebel Blood #1 from Image Comics is written by Riley Rossmo and Alex Link and illustrated by Rossmo. And it does something rebellious.

Chuck Neville is a former firefighter who, after having a nasty accident on the job, is relegated to the serenity of a fire tower in a forest. The move has the obvious impacts on his relationship with his wife and son, as well as being typically more mundane than the rush of putting out fires for an actual fire department. His only contact in his post with others is his radio, a research assistant and a poacher.

Throughout the book we're shown insights into why Chuck's new job may not be as safe as first intended. There's something causing people to go rabid. They're not quite zombies, but there is some sort of contagion that is driving people to kill. It's even affecting animals, as the silent pages at beginning open with Chuck squaring off against too slightly more vicious and feral wolves.

There's a slight disorientation as you first read, with Rossmo and Link sort of skipping around chronologically. You can manage to put it all together, but it is a little jarring. You're shown what happened to Chuck that got him sent to the fire tower, but it's a little unclear if he was sent there as punishment or as a necessity because of an injury.

When Chuck learns that the contagion is moving towards the town, he instantly worries about his family. There are a few pages where Rossmo and Link delve into Chuck's imagination and those pages might be the most disturbing parts of the book. Chuck envisions just about every scenario possible upon arrival. His family's ok, they're dead, etc.

It's really his imagination running wild and says a lot about Chuck himself. He's got this innate hunger to prove that he's a hero, mostly to his wife in the hopes that it will save his marriage. It's a great way to keep you guessing as to what Chuck really is about. You don't know which scenario actually does come to fruition by the end of the first issue, which also means you don't really "know" what type of man Chuck really is.

The illustrations by Rossom are similarly jarring. There's an unfinished quality about them that's equally unsettling. It's very reminiscent of Dave McKean's art in Batman: Arkham Asylum. The art is disjointed, much like Chuck's personality and imagination. There are harsh lines that slash the pages, further accenting this unknown and impending terror.

This isn't just another zombie story. Image Comics sort of has that taken care of with The Walking Dead. Instead, this is a psychological story, very much in the vein of Alan Wake. The actual contagion or zombies aren't really the focus of the book. The focus instead is on Chuck and his demons. Naturally, fighting the physical "demons" from the contagion will show Chuck what kind of man he really is. It's a fascinating first issue that leaves you wanting to get to know Chuck better.

Rebel Blood #1 is in stores now with interiors below.