R.E.B.E.L.S. #11 continued the momentum that started to build with last issue's Blackest Night crossover. Over 50,000 people read last issue and the hope, of course, is that some of those new readers enjoyed the book enough to come back.
In this issue, Tony Bedard throws all the plot lines together into a frenetic action packed story. This sort of crazed pace is wildly entertaining. And, as usual, Brainiac is the most interesting character in the book.
Last issue ended with Black Lantern Stealth attacking the team in deep space while Black Lantern Harbinger attacked several Sinetsro Corps members. With the Sinestro Corps members being wiped out, Vril was offered a Yellow Lantern ring.
With their starship ripped in half by Harbinger, most of the team is incapacitated. Adam Strange begins to teleport them to the surface of a nearby planet Kandato.
In the meantime,Hakk attempts to repair the ship. Apparently there is technology on board that will help the ship's hull seal automatically. Of course, he has to line up the symmetric halves to have this work. I found this to be a little bit silly.
During this time, Brainiac tries to stymie Stealth and her attempts to kill the team members. As always, I enjoy seeing the emotional registry of characters through the eyes of the Black Lanterns. Here, despite their history and despite the horror around him, Brainiac is pure will. I love how he uses the ring to blast a hole in her head.
With Stealth temporarily incapacitated, Brainiac retreats to the planets surface and joins the team. He reminds the group that the Flash has told them the Black Lanterns' weakness against multi-spectrum light. Brainiac's yellow light is only part of the solution. They need a massive energy source to replicate other types of light and they need it soon.
They need Wildstar.
She has just arrived in the area of space where the R.E.B.E.L.S. are after escaping Starro's vanguard off the planet Voorl.
As we saw last issue, despite their unbelievable power,Starro's vanguard are no match for a Black Lantern. Wildstar tells Hakk how she saw Stealth rip the heart out of each and every one of them. We have seen the damage that the vanguard can do. We know the type of warrior that Starro picks to join that elite group. It is absolutely amazing and kind of scary that one Black Lantern could kill them all.
Now that she has arrived, she is able to help Hakk maneuver the pieces of the ship together.
Speaking of Starro's vanguard, Lyrl has recently joined the group as Brainiac 3. And during his short time of servitude he has been able to create a transmatter portal which will circumvent Vril's force field wall which has trapped the Starro wave.
With the teleporter online, Starro asks that a door be opened to Voorl so he can see how his vanguard has fared against the R.E.B.E.L.S.
The conqueror is in for a big surprise because the now zombified members of the vanguard emerge to do battle with their former master.
With nowhere else to turn, Lyrl opens up the teleporter gate and brings that fight to Kandato where the R.E.B.E.L.S. are barely holding their own against their Black Lantern opponents.
There are some great parts to this scene. First off, it is wonderful to see Vril's responses to Lyrl's efforts. He is both impressed and annoyed at Lyrl's inventing the transmatter portal, something Vril has never been able to do. But he is also angered and disappointed at seeing the large vanguard Starro star attached to his son's body.
I also love seeing Starro's response to his troop's defection to the Black Lantern cause. The Conqueror has been looking for something to give his life more meaning than merely overrunning the universe. He seems to relish the battle. And his pure rage is intoxicating to the hungry Lanterns.
Another thing we learn during this battle is that the Starro face hugger is powerless against the 'mindless shells' of the Black Lanterns. Stealth simply rips the star from her face.
She had been about to kill Lyrl when Starro made her pause for a moment. With Lyrl in her grasp, we see Vril's emotional registry again ... this time pure fear. He is afraid his son will die. Maybe the 'benign dictator' does have an Achilles' heel with his son.
The battle between the Black Lantern forces (Stealth, Harbinger, Starro's Vanguard) and Starro and Smite and the R.E.B.E.L.S. devolves into chaos. Despite a temporary alliance between the Dox's to try to mimic Green Lantern light to destroy the zombies, it is clear that the Black Lanterns are simply relentless. The R.E.B.E.L.S. team members begin to fall.
Luckily, Hakk and Wildstar have fixed the ship. It lands on the planet giving the team hope for retreat. But with carnage and mayhem swirling around them, it doesn't look like escape is even possible.
That's when Yellow Lantern Dox decides to stop the fight by pushing it to a different location. He pushes most of the Black Lanterns and Starro back through the transmatter portal ... back to Starro's base world Maltus.
And when Lyrl shows his defiance against his father, even when facing certain death at the hands of Stealth, Dox shoves them through the door as well closing the door behind them.
How much hate must Lyrl house in his heart for his father, how seething must that be, that he would rather die a slave than be free? What a great relationship to have in this book to explore! What great tension!
And almost as unbelievable is Vril's response.
For the second issue in a row we see the cold calculating facade drop to reveal some emotional anguish. Brainiac has probably shipped Lyrl off to his death. It is clear that Vril loves his son and is tormented by their relationship, by his actions against his offspring.
Given his usual icy demeanor, seeing moments like this for Brainiac make for powerful scenes. But they need to be few and far between. You can't consistently show him like this or the breakdown scenes lose their strength.
Unfortunately, Vril loses his new found weapon against his enemies. After repeatedly refusing to obey Sinestro's command to go to Korugar, the ring rejects Brainiac for insubordination.
Enraged by the whole turn of events, Brainiac decides it is time to stop running. The R.E.B.E.L.S. will become proactive in their war against Starro. I like the sound of that! It might seem a little out of character for Brainiac to respond emotionally like this but I think he simply realizes that running away isn't doing any good.
The issue ends with a one page tease for the next year of R.E.B.E.L.S.
The next year!! Looks like DC recognizes a good comic suffering from lackluster sales. A page like this is like a vote of confidence for the book. DC must not be planning to imminently pull the plug despite the lowish sales. And it looks like R.E.B.E.L.S. will probably be part of the Brainiac storyline running through Adventure and the Super-titles.
Hopefully R.E.B.E.L.S. will be given Jonah Hex status, recognized by DC as filling a niche and allowed to grow into sales without premature cancellation. I have sung the praises of this title since its inception. I am thrilled to see that DC acknowledges the quality here.
The one thing I will say is that I was disappointed to not see Andy Clarke drawing this issue. Claude St. Aubin was back on pencilling duties. And after hearing that Clarke is going to be drawing Batman and Robin after Cam Stewart's run and knowing Clarke's pace, my guess is we have seen the last of him on art here. Too bad, his style was perfect for this title.
All that said, this was a fun brawl-filled issue.
Overall grade: A