Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Review: R.E.B.E.L.S. #8

I am finally catching up with last week's reviews and that means a good look at R.E.B.E.L.S.

R.E.B.E.L.S. #8 was another very good issue in this underappreciated series. One thing that I liked about this issue was that it not only dealt with the current threat of Starro but set up some sub-plots as well. I feared that the comic might get into a 'let's see which race gets ruined by Starro this month' rut. While we do see Starro mopping up another intergalactic power, newer threads are started.

As usual, Tony Bedard does a great job with the dialogue as each character sounds distinct and fully formed. What is more impressive is how quickly you get a sense of the different cultures and races in the comic. Last issue Bedard showed the Gil'Dishpan xenophobia and how far they would go to keep others out of their mother ocean. In this issue, we see how overconfident the Khunds are with their military might.

But the issue starts with the R.E.B.E.L.S. team hiding out on Voorl, a sort of refugee planet for all those fleeing the Starro wave.

Vril Dox's son Lyrl has been hiding out on the planet with his mother, ex-L.E.G.I.O.N. member Stealth, but Wildstar is able to track him down. With the help of Tribulus, Lyrl is captured.

One character who I felt has been lacking in some characterization is Wildstar who hasn't really had much to say in the comic. It is clear that she is still so happy to be free of Starhaven's prejudice that she will do anything Brainian asks her to. This opening scene is told from Wildstar's perspective and we see some notes from her personal journal. It isn't much but it is more that we have seen recently. I think slowly but surely she is going to learn just what kind of person Dox is and that may lead to more begrudging and less blind loyalty to him.

While the family reunion is happening on Voorl, the Khund military fleet (called 'The Godfist' ... spectacular), begins to approach the Dominator homeworld which has become Starro's base of operations.

Like most people in this comic, the Khunds have completely underestimated Starro's power. The fleet admiral thinks this will be a simple military exercise. The Khunds will bomb the Dominator world from orbit and pick over the scraps for the spoils of war. That overconfidence is usually called hubris and never ends well.

I love the visual of a massive Starro taking up about a quarter of the Dominator planet, the eye visible from space.

But before we see the result of that battle, we return to Voorl.

I have talked all along about how Vril Dox is really the straw that stirs the drink of this comic. The scenes with him are clearly the best scenes in this book as we see just how ruthless and efficient he can be.

Here we see just what a strange life he has led. Dox acts rather coldly to the news that Stealth is dead, something which irks Bounder. I love this exchange where Dox explains how Stealth raped and killed him and therefore does not deserve his grief. Even better is the 'straight man' response by Strata simply saying 'It's complicated'. The fact that this little exchange is humorous let's you know just how complicated Dox is as a character.

It is these small things that make me like this comic so much.

For those of us who didn't collect much L.E.G.I.O.N. or any of the older incarnations of R.E.B.E.L.S., Ciji asks for and receives some exposition. Lyrl was born with complete intellect and attempted to take over Dox's empire only to be infantilized for his own good.

It does add to the mystery of this side mission. Why does Dox want to find Lyrl. Is it that he feels some paternal feelings towards him and wants to make sure he is safe? Is it that he thinks he can use Lyrl in his own agenda? Or does he fear Starro using Lyrl against him? I doubt Vril is doing this because he feels warm and fuzzy.

I also love how Hakk off screen yells how he fears no one. Again, some frivolity mixed into the action. This team is such a chaotic mix, Bedard must have a lot of fun writing them. There is infinite opportunity for stress, humor, and action.

We finally see why Lyrl accused Dox of killing Stealth. Early on in the Starro conflict, when the starfish took over Dox's robot army, L.E.G.I.O.N. androids where sent to Voorl to capture or kill Stealth and Lyrl. Stealth apparently sacrificed herself to allow Lyrl to run and hide.

Recent solicits show Stealth coming back as a Black Lantern.

Unfortunately this is the last we see of Dox this issue as we are brought up to speed on a number of other characters seen in the book.

First off, the Khunds simple plan turns out to be a misguided exercise. Shortly after the fleet surrounds the planet, Starro's metahuman army emerges from behind the moon and begins destroying the Godfist. Even the missile barrage is stopped from reaching the planet.

The look on the Khund Admiral is priceless. I almost wish he said 'inconceivable' as he hears how his troops are being routed.

You would think that Khunds might be more cautious given what Starro has accomplished so far. I guess this is what happens when you are overconfident.

The Omega Men begin forming an uneasy alliance with the Psions. The Psions have experimented on some Starro drones and have mutated them. These dark stars (a little insult at Darkstars, the space police force?) will augment a beings strength, will allow them to appear as Starro slaves to other Starro slaves, but leave the person with their free will.

With the ability to move 'unseen' amongst the Starro army, the Omega Men can reach the homeworld and attempt to assassinate Starro or at least perform some guerilla warfare.

I don't trust the Psions at all but I guess 'the enemy of my enemy is my friend'.

While hiding out on Voorl, Strata asks Wildstar to track down her husband and son who have become refugees.

Using her tracking skills, Wildstar is able to find the two easily. I wonder if *this* family reunion will lead to Garv joining the R.E.B.E.L.S. or of Strata leaving the team.

As I have come to expect, Starro has little trouble in defeating the Khund army. Despite begging to be a lieutenant, the stubborn Khund admiral is reduced to a face-hugged slave.

What is interesting is just how powerful Starro's general Strife is shown to be. I can only see Tribulus giving him any sort of challenge.

If the only plot this issue was the fall of the Khunds, I would worry about how this comic's plots might become routine. That's why the addition of subplots this issue really strengthens the title.

And now bolstered by the dark stars, the Omega Men slip through Starro's orbital defenses and make their way to the Dominator homeworld.

After the relatively stream-lined plot of the first seven issues, I really liked the more diverse action this issue. With a book with as huge a cast as this book, Bedard is really doing a good job of keeping all the juggled balls in the air.

Sure I would have liked to see more of Dox and the R.E.B.E.L.S. this issue but it was important to show what is happening throughout the sector. By establishing new threads this issue, we are set up for the next several months of the book. I hope DC will give the book the time it needs to weave all these stories into one big tapestry.

That said, I do think that showcasing the individual R.E.B.E.L.S. is important. I appreciated the closer look at Wildstar this month. I would love to hear some of Ciji's back story too.

Lastly, I have to gush a bit about Andy Clarke's detailed artwork here. The book has a particular feel when he is on pencils and it fits this book perfectly. I see that Claude St. Aubin is listed as next month's artist. I was happy to see that Clarke is drawing the Blackest Night crossover issue.

Anyways, another month ... another fun issue.

Overall grade: B+

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