All I can say is ... WOW!
I have been singing the praises of R.E.B.E.L.S. since its beginnings but I felt the title might be in a bit of a rut lately. It seemed like each month showed another planet falling to Starro while Dox and his band kept half a step ahead. While each issue was great, there was a repeating pattern. I was hoping that writer Tony Bedard would shake things up a bit.
Well, R.E.B.E.L.S. #10 did that! What an absolutely great issue, turning this whole series on its head. And since this was the issue tied into theBlackest Night and was the issue linked to the Indigo Corps ring giveaway, my guess is sales are going to be through the roof. Given the quality of the issue, I hope all the Indigo ring-slingers will be drawn in and will stick around.
The issue starts with a nice and neat recap of prior L.E.G.I.O.N. issues specifically the origin of Stealth, Dox's ex-wife and mother to his son. With the memories downloaded, Black Lantern Stealth arises from the swamps of Voorl. It was here that the Starro-controlled L.E.G.I.O.N. robots killed her.
As a reader who didn't collect much of the prior incarnations of L.E.G.I.O.N. or R.E.B.E.L.S., the recap was appreciated. It was just long enough to give me the information I needed of the character but short enough not to detract from the overall story.
Last issue, we saw the R.E.B.E.L.S. team ranks swell with the addition of Adam Strange, Captain Comet, and Kanjar Ro.
Strange and Comet bring Dox up to date on the events outside this area of the galaxy. Blackest Night and the various Corps are all described to Dox in detail including the dead Black Lanterns and how one can defeat them.
Dox is at his most condescending throughout the conversation. He says he always knew the Guardians were setting themselves up for failure with the design of their corps. I also love how he dismisses the threat of the Black Lanterns. "Zombies with power rings, now that I'd like to see." I wonder if that was Dan Didio's response to Geoff Johns original pitch for Blackest Night.
While the Ring War is ripping apart the universe, Dox doesn't lose sight of the more immediate threat, Starro and his armada.
And here is more of Dox's confidence and arrogance.
When asked about the overwhelming threat of Starro, he calmly responds that he has managed things so far. Only Dox would dismiss the Starro situation as being handled well.
But that is the allure of Dox as a character. He is a cocky bastard but he produces.
Last issue, we saw that Starro's vanguard, his most powerful and independent warriors, had landed on Voorl to find Lyrl Dox, Brainiac's son.
When they do catch up with him, Lyrl agrees to join their group. That is how much he hates his father, the man who lobotimized him.
Vril Dox is the character which really makes this title work. What a delicious new adversary for him to match wits with ... his own son.
When Dox is informed that Lyrl has left with Starro's troop, he becomes unhinged.
Dox always plays things close to the vest. This is the guy who pages earlier calmly talked about how he would neutralize an army of over a trillion troops. Suddenly the cool, calm, 'uniform perfectly pressed' Dox explodes! When he loses his cool, people should be worried.
But it is this change in characterization that gives Dox such depth. He can't always be in control. He knows that once Starro reactivates Lyrl's intelligence that the Lyrl will break down the force field wall trapping the Starro wave. And when that wall goes down, the galaxy will soon follow.
And that is exactly what happens. Starro welcomes Lyrl to his vanguard, the special starfish attached to the Coluan's back.
And just like that Lyrl's intelligence returns. He isn't Lyrl the jungle boy anymore. He is Brainiac 3!
I think Brainiac 3 will obviously be a huge threat against Brainiac 2's plans. But I also wonder just how much of a threat he will be internally to Starro. If Lyrl is anything like Vril, he isn't going to be happy serving anyone for very long. He is going to think he should be in charge. And since he has free will, I wonder if he will lash out at some point against his 'master'.
Knowing that his force field wall will soon be down, knowing that all his plans are basically ruined, Vril decides it is time for the R.E.B.E.L.S. to cut and run. As they take off, the remaining Vanguard troops start to chase them.
As usual, Dox is ruthless. There is no point in attempting to rescue Lyrl. In fact, he thinks the best thing they could do is kill his son the next time they see him. Again, that icy exterior when talking about killing his progeny is what makes Dox the character he is. That doesn't make him explode like he did in the prior scene.
But the Vanguard aren't the only people hunting down Dox. So is Black Lantern Stealth!
One thing we learn quickly ... it doesn't matter how strong the Vanguard are, Stealth appears stronger. Without breaking a sweat she rips the heart out of Limina. Remember, these are considered the strongest of Starro's troops. We have seen individual members raze whole planets. And yet Stealth easily kills one.
With Stealth as a sudden wild card, Dox knows it truly is the time to run.
Incredibly, some of the R.E.B.E.L.S. think that Stealth was helping the team, saving them from Starro's forces. Ummm ... didn't they see her decaying flesh?
Dox knows what the Black Lanterns are about and knows that running is the only option. And as he anticipated, Lyrl was able to deactivate the force field wall. The time has come to warp to Earth and rally the troops.
Dox almost looks proud when he hears the wall has fallen, 3 hours earlier than he anticipated. But just like that the entire premise of the first year of this book is dissapated. This isn't about the R.E.B.E.L.S. fighting Starro in a fishbowl. This is about the whole universe!
The R.E.B.E.L.S. ship warps into the middle of a battle between members of the Sinestro Corps and Black Lanterns.
One of those Black Lanterns is Harbinger from Crisis on Infinite Earths. I don't know why her addition to the Black Lantern ranks made me cringe a bit more than any of the other heroes who have been resurrected. I guess I always thought she got kind of a raw deal.
Harbinger is completely focused on killing the Yellow Lanterns. Stealth is drawn to Dox.
In the ensuing battle, the R.E.B.E.L.S. ship is ripped in half and any number of Yellow Lanterns are slaughtered. One of theYellow Lanterns who is killed hails from Sector 1287. When he dies, his ring finds a suitable new host, a person capable of instilling great fear ...
Perfect! I think Dox instills fear in friends and foes alike. And while wielding the yellow ring, he is probably a match for Stealth.
What a great issue!
Unlike many 'crossover' event issues, this one makes perfect sense. Blackest Night is effecting all of the universe, including the galaxy Starro is currently controlling. It would seem artificial if the events of Blackest Night didn't effect the R.E.B.E.L.S. team.
This crossover with the Ring War didn't seem forced in any way. In fact, it actually moved the main title's plot forward!
And between Blackest Night and the Lyrl betrayal, the overall Starro arch suddenly has a new dynamic feel to it. Tony Bedrard suddenly isn't painted into the corner of that one galaxy. Suddenly the universe is open to him.
As always, this comic is at its best when Vril Dox is the straw stirring the drink. After a couple of issues where Dox was in the background, he is clearly showcased here. And we get a great sense of who he is ... calm when he thinks he has things handled, irate when teammates make stupid mistakes, oddly proud of his son's abilities, thrilled to be handed a Yellow Lantern ring. Dox is simply one of the most interesting characters in comics now. I don't know if I would like him if I met him. But I bet I would want to be on his team.
Andy Clarke was back on art with this issue and I have to say the book just has a whole different feel when he is on board. The book just takes on a distinct and polished feel. I wish he could be here every issue. I think his stuff is slick.
But I am going to reiterate my opening statement.
All I can say is ... WOW!
Overall grade: A+