Monday, February 16, 2009

Review: R.E.B.E.L.S. #1

I will admit that I did not collect L.E.G.I.O.N. for more than a few issues back in the late eighties and early nineties. As a result, I would not typically be interested in the recently solicited R.E.B.E.L.S. book.

But then I heard Tony Bedard would be writing it. And I saw some samples of Andy Clarke's art. And, of course, it was revealed that Supergirl would play a part in the formation of the team and would guest star in the first 2 issues. With those hooks out there, I decided to buy R.E.B.E.L.S. #1. I was pleasantly surprised.



The book opens with Vril Dox (Brainiac 2) crash landing on Earth and asking where the nearest rest room is. It is an odd request no doubt but it is funny and made me wonder why he would be asking that. After all, bathroom trips are really the final frontier of comics, aren't they?

One thing Bedard made clear in interviews is that Dox is still quite a fascist in mindset. I can remember that from those early L.E.G.I.O.N. days. He thinks he knows best, feels he should be in charge, and will do what he needs to do to get control of a situation. Certainly his uniform design is screaming that to us. Does anything say fascist more than epaulets, jodhpur pants, and arm bands?

In many ways, Dox presents an odd 'hero' because of this. His uniform (and probably his philosophy) is close to General Zod, a terrible villain. And yet, here we are with a totalitarian protagonist. It is similar to the movie 'Starship Troopers' where I felt odd rooting for people dressed up like Nazi SS officers.

That viewpoint gives the book something of a fresh perspective and that always will make me want to read more.

It turns out the Vril is on the run from several bad guys aiming to kill him. One of the things that got me to try the original L.E.G.I.O.N. comic was the idea of Legion equivalents in current time. That initial team had Brainiac 2, a Durlan, and a Blok equivalent.

Here we see the villains look like twisted versions of some 31st century bad guys.

There is Tribulus, a Validus-like creature. While it has a Giger-like Alien head, it has overwhelming rage, mental lightning, 2 digits, and enough power for its colleagues to think it could handle a Kryptonian. Sounds like Validus. Is the 'Validus is Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl's child twisted by Darkseid' story still in continuity?

There is also a Tyr-equivalent named Hakk complete with robotic weapon arm.

And there also seems to be a Tharok type, although it seems his flesh/machine split is front/back rather than left/right.


Vril has been given a message to contact Supergirl and so he leads the villains into the heart of Metropolis hoping to get her attention. He even says that he will fight his pursuers even if he needs to kill every nearby human. Dox certainly talks like an anti-hero.

Whatever his ethics, his plan works.

While the assasins' blasts bounce off of Vril's force field, the cityscape and innocents are not so protected.

I like what happens when Supergirl shows up. Brainiac 2, knowing the power level of his adversaries, tells Supergirl that they should simply fly away to keep the property damage and casualty count low. Supergirl responds by flying right into battle. I like that mix of confidence and heroism. She isn't going to run away from evil-doers; she is going to confront.

Of course, it might have been a tactical error after all as a bolt of Tribulus' lightning nearly takes her out.

Understanding that retreat is what is best for the city, she scoops up Vril and flies off.


After just a bit of exposition, Brainiac tells Supergirl that he was instructed to hold a DVD up to her and say a certain word ...


"Cephalophore" turns out to be a trigger word for a post-hypnotic suggestion placed by Brainiac 5 during Supergirl's stay in the 31st century. When Supergirl hears the word, she encodes data onto the DVD with heat vision.

Cephalophore isn't a real word. But if you break it into it's roots of 'cephalo' (meaning head) and '-phore' (meaning bearer) we get something like 'knowledge bringer'.



Kara's download of knowledge turns out to be blueprints for a device. He starts to boss Supergirl around who figures out that this Brainiac is from Colu just like Brainiac 5. I like how he immediately distances himself from the 'renegade' who calls himself Brainiac (that is Superman's villain).

But this Brainiac is manipulating. I love how Kara wonders why Dox thinks she will simply listen to him ... only to have her listen to him. Kara has been used by someone who put this data file inside her; it only makes sense she would be interested in getting to the bottom of this.



We then learn more about what may have forced Brainiac to go on the run.

The Omega Men (man I haven't thought about them in looonng time) has discovered that Dox's robot army have taken over all planets they protect. Indeed, Silica (L.E.G.I.O.N.'s living computer) makes an all-channels bulletin that all L.E.G.I.O.N. guarded worlds are now L.E.G.I.O.N. property. The Omega ship is fired upon by L.E.G.I.O.N. ships as interplanetary travel around those worlds has been outlawed.

Someone has taken over Dox's troops. And I am sure that Brainiac 2 aims to find out who did it, how they did it, and why they did it.


Back on Earth, Dox is able to build the device from the plans. It turns out that this device, when activated, hacks into Brainiac 2's mind. This download into his mind makes him catatonic.

The device shows Brainiac 2 a message from Brainiac 5, the Brainy from the Waid reboot, the Brainy Kara interacted with.



But before we get to hear exactly what the message is, Supergirl tells us she hears the earlier assasins' ship approaching. And it looks like they are locked and loaded.

Like most first issues, this one hopes to provide enough intrigue and action to keep readers coming back for more. I have to say, it did just that for me.

I like the idea of someone semi-reprehensible as protagonist. Dox just doesn't seem to be a typical nice guy hero. So an innovative perspective is a nice way to start. Bedard seems comfortable with him and with Kara too.

The inclusion of such new but familiar villains is also a draw. Trilibus alone might have been interesting enough to make me buy the next issue. But who are these guys? And what is with that Tharok-like guy?

Add a nice portrayal of Kara and a known addition soon of a female style Wildfire (Drake being my favorite Legionnaire) and I am in for at least another issue.

For the most part, I found Andy Clarke's work to be really good. The use of small dots instead of solid lines to define contours reminded me a bit of Geof Darrow or even Howard Chaykin's early art in American Flagg! Did anyone else feel that Cameron Diaz was his model for Kara?

So I am definitely in for next issue. The question is am I in for more?

Overall grade: B+

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'm hooked in for the moment, largely I see this appearance as an opportunity for some tension with Brainiac 2 and some nice old fashioned total smackdown with the villains.

Just for once, I'd like to see Kara battle back hard from a position of being underestimated...thad be kewl.

John Feer

Heath Edwards said...

i quite enjoyed this, too. i've been following along with dc's space stories since '52', and its been a lot of fun. beforehand, i'd not really gotten into it so much, but i do hope this will bring even more life to the teeming galaxies of the dcu...
i'm not one to go back into previous series, so i'm not up on who's who, unless they've popped up in stories during the past few years. but, i did get into the feel of the politics pretty quickly without too much trouble.
looking forward to more...

Nikki said...

Cephalophore is used in christian mythology and you got it right by breaking it up. A beheaded saint would get up and carry their heads to finish their business

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cephalophore

Anj said...

i quite enjoyed this, too. i've been following along with dc's space stories since '52', and its been a lot of fun. beforehand, i'd not really gotten into it so much, but i do hope this will bring even more life to the teeming galaxies of the dcu...

Thanks for the post.

I may be leaning on you for some of the more intergalactic back story then!

I haven't bought Mystery in Space or any of the Rann/Thanagar stuff.

Anj said...

Cephalophore is used in christian mythology and you got it right by breaking it up. A beheaded saint would get up and carry their heads to finish their business

Thanks so much for the great post.

How silly of me in this day and age to not just search 'cephalophore', instead breaking it down into its roots.

Great stuff ... thanks again!

TalOs said...

Man this was one hell of a kick ass start for this titles first issue! 8D

Anj said...
After just a bit of exposition, Brainiac tells Supergirl that he was instructed to hold a DVD up to her and say a certain word..."Cephalophore" turns out to be a trigger word for a post-hypnotic suggestion placed by Brainiac 5 during Supergirl's stay in the 31st century. When Supergirl hears the word, she encodes data onto the DVD with heat vision.

See THIS particular part I just don't get. If in the 31st Century Brainiac 5 had placed this hypnotic suggestion in to Supergirl then come her traveling back to the early 21st Century how exactly is it that Brainiac 5's ancestor Vril Dox/Brainiac 2 would even come to know of this eh?? :/

Anj said...
Is the 'Validus is Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl's child twisted by Darkseid' story still in continuity?

Well, if Legion of 3 Worlds #3 surprise reaction of 2 particular Legions to that panel of seeing Darkseid is anything to go by I'd say yes. Heh. :D

Er, question: when the Waid/Kitson Legion's Brainy 5's holo addresses his 21st Century ancestor Vril Dox is the earlier implying that eventually both Vril AND Supergirl are destined to fall madly in love and get married in time? Because that's kind of what I got out of reading that particular 'encounter' between the 2 Brainys conversation it the end myself. :/

Anj said...
Did anyone else feel that Cameron Diaz was his model for Kara?

GREAT SCOTT! You're absolutely right! Heh, "Super-Diaz" Imagine that! :D