R.E.B.E.L.S. #9 came out last week and I have to say that this was the most up and down issue of the title as far as I was concerned.
One thing that has been somewhat bothersome to me has been the repetitive nature of many of the last issues. Each month has been Starro devouring another planet and Dox getting another recruit. Last month we finally began to see some subplots. The addition of the Lyrl character as well as the Omega Men subplot were welcome new parts of the book.
And nothing against the prior issues; I have loved every one of them. I just am ready to move on a bit. I fully understand the threat that Starro is, especially after reading the annual. Now I want to see Dox challenge the Conqueror.
This issue follows the same basic plot as above ... Starro devours planet, Dox gets new recruits. And the two subplots mentions above do get more play. But it is the same formula. And it doesn't help that it looks like Adam Strange and Captain Comet (two characters I have never really cared for) are joining the book. Was this done in hopes of luring in new readers?
That said, there was a feeling of momentum in this issue. It feels like the team is finally complete. And with a Blackest Night crossover next month maybe the book is ready to turn the corner to the next big arc.
Still hiding out on Voorl, Dox begins formulating a plan to bring down Starro.
As always, Dox and characters' reaction to him are the catalysts for this book. Dox is brilliant and despiciable, efficient and cold-blooded. But people are loyal to him because he gets results. You might not like him but you have to respect him.
Here it is clear that Strata's husband Garv doesn't like Dox or the fact that Strata has thrown in with the Coluan again. Dox tells Garv that Starro is the common enemy for everyone. Given the way Starro has taken out major empires, Dox might be the best and only chance that people have for survival or freedom.
Garv reminds Brainiac that a lot of people are still trying to cut a deal with Starro. From what we have read in the Annual, negotiation is not an option for Starro.
Once again we see another ruler begin to feel the pressure of the Starro wave. This time it is Kanjar Ro, current ruler of the planet Dhor.
Rather than immediately ask for help from the R.E.B.E.L.S., Ro starts out by offering his help to the team. He then starts belittling the Dominator Admiral (now called Xylon after the phalanx he led). Ro reminds the Ominator that the big red dot signifying his caste is now meaningless. In what is a great moment, the Dominator wipes his forehead clean. He isn't part of the Dominator empire anymore. He shouldn't wear that mark anymore. If you know anything about the Dominators, you know what a huge deal this was. And yet it was done in an understated manner by Bedard. That quiet feeling about added to its strength.
The Dominator remains cold and calculating though. Realizing that Ro called for help, knowing Dhor is about to be overrun, he simply closes off the channel. Brrr....
While the team ponders their next move, Dox has a moment with his son.
Again, Dox is the character you love to hate. He certainly won't win any 'Father of the Year' awards. He call his son an asset that couldn't fall into enemy hands. Remember, Lyrl has been effectively lobotomized by Vril. If that intelligence is regained and then absorbed by Starro, the force field shell keeping Starro in check might fall.
But who knows about Brainiac? Maybe he wants Lyrl captured because he can then somehow access or infect the Starro hive mind. Maybe he is an asset to be used against Starro.
Regardless there are no warm and fuzzy moments here. It again showcases just who Dox is.
Back on one of the Starro home worlds, the Omega Men begin their covert mission. Covered in the Psion-mutated 'dark stars', they are technically invisible to the face-hugged masses. Moreover, their powers seem to be increased almost to the point of being uncontrollable.
Take, for example, Broot who has always been an empathic sort of character. He somehow is partially linked to the hive mind. I don't know how to read the last panel above. Is he just realizing that he isn't plugged in? Or is he lamenting that he isn;t part of that unity.
Either way, this sudden wave of sensitivity seems to effect the local slaves. They suddenly all surround the Omega Men. The scene suddenly ends so I don't know what intentions the Starro slaves have in mind.
This is turning into something of a better subplot than I thought it would be. I don't care just how juiced these Omega Men are, they are simply no match for Starro himself. It seemed like it might be a worthless suicide mission. But if they can somehow wrest Starro's control away from some of his slaves, they could be a very valuable ally to the REBELS.
And Dox is going to need as many allies as he can get.
We see Dhor completely overrun by the Starro wave. Kanjar Ro seems helpless before Smite, who smashes the Gamma Gong! The Gamma Gong! I love old DCU references.
Fortunately for Ro, before Smite can either slay or enslave him, Adam Strange zeta-beams in for the rescue. Strange had been seen earlier in the issue establishing contact with Dox. You can remember that early in this series, Strange said he and Comet were too busy to help out.
Using some impressive looking handheld weapons, Strange is able to hold off Smite for the split second he needs to teleport Ro and himself back to Voorl.
Despite this dramatic rescue, Dox is actually displeased. He didn't send Starnge to Dhor to save Ro. He saved him to get the Gamma Gong.
This panel is the first time we hear that Dox actually has a plan to fight Starro. He needs three items. He will split the R.E.B.E.L.S. into three teams.
And the team is now stronger. Both Adam Strange and Captain Comet have used the zeta beam to bypass the force field wall and join the fight. And, like him or not, Kanjar Ro is around and at least has some power.
Three missions ... three teams. Sounds like the next arc is being set up.
The team at least feels complete now. And Dox tries to rally them saying that they can meet all challenges if they follow his orders.
In what is a light-hearted moment, they decide to call themselves R.E.B.E.L.S. despite the fact that it stands for the ridiculous sounding Revolutionary Elite Brigade to Eradicate L.E.G.I.O.N. Supremacy. Strata states the obvious ... they must have been drunk when they came up with that.
Dox seems less than amused. But if anyone need a brief moment of levity it is this group. It is a rare moment of group unity for a ragtag army of prior enemies, rejects, and frenemies.
In a very symbolic move, Xylon shows up to join the group sporting a new caste symbol, the L.E.G.I.O.N. fist.
As a Legion of Super-Heroes fan I have read a lot of Dominator stories. This is the first one where they didn't read like two-dimensional fascists. Again, it is a small moment that speaks volumes. That seems to be one of Bedard's strong suits.
Despite Dox stating he has a plan in mind that he will begin executing in a few hours, a couple of the R.E.B.E.L.S. ... well ... rebel. Garv has convinced Strata that they should take their child and get as far away from Voorl and Dox as they can.
Lyrl overhears their plans and asks to join them.
Unfortunately before they can make it to the spaceport, the bulk of Starro's Vanguard arrives. In the annual, Starro told the Vanguard to seek out Lyrl. And now they have.
We have seen enough of Smite for me to feel that the entire R.E.B.E.L.S. team won't have what it takes to defeat him. Surrounded by 5 more of Starro's most powerful lieutenants makes me think that Dox should simply try to escape.
Unfortunately, I think that Lyrl gets nabbed and Garv gets killed, giving Strata a better reason to join Dox ... revenge.
As usual, Claude St. Aubin did his best to mirror Andy Clarke's style to give the book a consistent look. Some panels seem a bit too cartoony for my tastes, but not enough to bring the book down.
You know, after typing this review it is clear I liked this issue more than my opening paragraphs read like. Despite seeing some well worn themes revisited, I think this issue also planted the seeds for a new arc and some new plots. I am glad that DC is giving this book the time and publicity it deserves.
Overall grade: B+/B