It’s All Led Up To This: ‘Shades Of Magic: The Rebel Army’ Reviewed

by Rachel Bellwoar

Trilogies are all well and good but there’s a difference between designing a series to be trilogy and having a series go on for three volumes when the first one is successful. Titan Comics’ Shades of Magic series was always meant to be a trilogy – a three-part prequel to V. E. Schwab’s books, written by Schwab herself, but for comics – and it really shows in this final volume. Everything has been building up to this moment, and if Maxim plans to stop the Rebel Army from reaching London, he’s going to have to call on everything he’s learned in the last two volumes to defeat them.

It’s that sense that Maxim’s time in Verose has made a difference and that he wouldn’t have been able to take on this threat if it weren’t the events of The Steel Prince and Night of Knives that makes Rebel Army so rewarding for readers who have been on this journey with Maxim from the beginning. Participating in the Night of Knives, for example, was all about proving himself to the people of Verose. Now that Maxim is depending on them for support the question is whether his actions were enough to earn their respect.
Just as Maxim defeated the Pirate Queen in The Steel Prince, its pirates who are gunning for Verose in this arc, but the Rebel Army weren’t always this formidable and it speaks to Maxim’s instincts that he realizes something is wrong, even before he knows what. Readers know something has changed because the first issue lets us in on the secret, but Maxim is just going by his gut.

Andrea Olimpieri is back as artist, after switching to inking issues two through four of Night of Knives (Alessandro Cappuccio provides art assists on issues three and four). His use of maps is especially effective because it keeps readers abreast of how close the Rebel Army are. There’s always an awareness that they’re making steady progress and the route they’re taking is very direct. There’s no element of surprise and it makes them seem all the more formidable and brazen, as they take port after port.
Rebel Army also puts a lot of focus on strategy, which if great you’re a fan of TV shows like Black Sails. Rob Steen provides the letters and it’s why Olimpieri is able to show what else is going on without interrupting characters’ conversations. He doesn’t have to stay on them while they’re talking.
As for spells, Enrica Eren Angiolini’s colors (with color assists by Alice Kinoki) make it easy to identify magic but while this series has always tried to show, rather than explain, how magic works in this world (like having Maxim draw on the objects around him for steel), Schwab doesn’t translate the verbal spells, and while she probably didn’t translate them before, in other volumes, it’s not always clear, visually, what they’re supposed to have done.
Shades of Magic: The Rebel Army is available now from Titan Comics.

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