In The Rebel Army, the final installment in the Steel Prince graphic novel series by V. E. Schwab, Maxim Maresh is facing the biggest threat yet, as a pirate ship called the Tide is making its way up the Blood Coast toward Verose. There, the prince must unite the lawless city to defend it from a vengeful Antari and his two dangerous allies.
As with the previous graphic novels in this series, this is an enjoyable prequel to the Shades of Magic series. The visuals of the magic are really cool, and the action exciting. Sometimes, though, the art style is a little messy, and the character designs—to me—don’t seem as consistent as they could, which bothered me a bit this time. However, overall I like the look of this.
Maxim’s character continues to develop in this, as he faces a greater danger than before. He has fully embraced his role as a leader, though he is still headstrong. I can definitely see where Rhy, his son, gets that aspect of his personality. As for the other characters, Isra is still the best and deserves her own spin-off, maybe in short story form? Or a full novel? I think there’s a lot of potential for a cool adventure with her.
Isra and Maxim’s main foe, Rowan, is sinister and violent, but not extremely nuanced compared to other characters in this universe. However, the threat he represents and the effect he has on Maxim cannot be overstated, especially considering Maxim’s choices and actions in the main series. And their final battle is intense and well-paced. I just wish we had had a bit more of his personality, rather than simply seeing his conquest.
Also, I still feel like we’re missing a link between Maxim-the-prince and Maxim-the-king, and so these prequels felt somewhat incomplete. I’d love to see him having to put aside the soldier side of himself to embrace the throne, or seeing his softer side when he meets Emira, or perhaps even a scene where he first encounters Kell. Wow, who would have thought I’d want more Maxim Maresh? Ms. Schwab, your powers have no limit.
In the end, The Rebel Army makes for a mostly satisfying conclusion to this graphic novel series. The writing is good, the art is compelling, and the main characters are cool. This isn’t my favorite part of the Shades of Magic universe, but it does add some great action and intrigue and complexity to one of the most enigmatic side characters. It makes me want to reread the main books!
Overall rating: 8/10