These Free and Independent States
Written by Brian Wood
Illustrated by Andrea Mutti
Coloured by Lauren Affe
Lettered by Jared K. Fletcher
1794: John Abbott comes of age in an America divided in its response to Barbary Piracy and an aggressive England. Asteh Boston shipyard ramps up construction of the USS Constitution, John falls in with Abolitionists.
I think it’s interesting to see where Brian decides to place these stories. A little part of this is extremely educational as you see the different factions for the time and how they were, which is not unlike our current political climate only with different names. It’s also very good at getting you to see that regardless of what age a country is there are growing pains, choices to be made that will not sit well with everyone and that will cause some to speak out against what they believe to be injustice. Then of course it’s also entertaining as all get out too with John Abbott and his trying to find out who he is and his place in this world.
It’s not uncommon to ask are people thrust into greatness or are they destined for it? In this case you can see how John is both yet neither. He’s got that idiot savant nature down for ship building and has all the smarts in the world when it comes to what he loves but the social side of life eludes him. He’s the kind of man who will openly listen and discuss something with anyone so as to learn and this is seen as his willingness to be swayed to a “side.” So that Brian is taking us on this journey of John’s and we see how a man who only wishes to learn, to better himself and to make friends finds himself way in over his head and what he does about it.
Honestly a story such as this could have been set in any given time period, that Brian chose this one is fantastic. It opens up the mind, the imagination and aptly demonstrates the parallels to our lives today. With the way this story unfolds, is structured and the depth of characterisation that we get this is undeniably some Brian’s more fascinating work. That in itself says a lot considering what he’s done and is doing.
Andrea, wow such a talented man he is. His interiors with the whole Colonial dress vibe and his undertaking of how the barebones of a ship should look is amazing. I’m always impressed with his eye for storytelling using page layouts with their angles, perspective and use of backgrounds. The style he brings to this story is so gosh darn good and the way it’s seen just feels like it’s right.
Dark Horse has been the home and at the forefront for some truly amazing original storytelling over the years. Their ongoing commitment and bravery to bringing us books and stories that not only entertain but teach and thrill is what makes them a leader in the industry. It’s also books like this one right here where we get to see folks like Brian and Andrea unleash some of their most impressive work.