Who could possibly be more devious and calculating than Vril Dox, Brainiac 2? How about Lyrl Dox, Brainiac 3?
The Vril Dox character is the straw that stirs the drink of R.E.B.E.L.S. One of the best parts of this comic is seeing how easily Vril is able to manipulate all the people around him. Most of the characters express a hatred or strong dislike for the man. And yet, they continue to walk lock-step behind him as he leads. As a reader I love trying to figure out exactly what Dox' true motives are. I mean ... I doubt he actually considers Despero a 'colleague'. I am wondering when the back stab will happen.
So imagine my thrill when I read R.E.B.E.L.S. #13 and saw that the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. In this comic, Lyrl Dox 'helps' two people who should no better than to accept gifts easily. He also sets up Starro for a fall. It is that deep seeded hubris, the feeling that you can control powerful forces with a turn of the phrase and feigned alliances, that arrogance that makes me love Dox as a character. In Lyrl, I wonder if he has simply bitten off more than he can chew.
This has been labeled the penultimate chapter in the Starro saga, so an ending is coming.
As usual, there are a lot of moving parts in this comic and Tony Bedard keeps us abreast of what everyone is doing. (That said, I feel like Wildstar has been a bit too absent recently.)
The 'dark-starred' Omega Men have come across a powdered version of the Starro-toxin they have been searching for. Doc thinks he will be able to reconstitute it to a liquid weapon in his lab, so the team flies off with assault on their mind.
In the meantime, Dox has flown to the Psion base where the Omega Men had flown from. Using the Psion equipment there, he is able to rapidly regenerate a body for Despero, a key part to Dox' ultimate plan.
As Starro towers over the crowd in the lab naked, screaming of his revenge.
I love how easily Vril short circuits that pronouncement of power by asking Despero to cover up his 'little king' and put on some pants. So that sort of grounds Despero a bit.
But Dox follows it up wonderfully with another jibe. He asks Despero if he wants to hear how the R.E.B.E.L.S. will kill the man who beheaded the tyrant of Kalanor. In other words, how can Despero shout about his great power and thirst for revenge when just hours earlier he was a head on a pike? It is that ability to read people and mold them that makes Dox so compelling.
The weapon to defeat Starro has been built. The casing is Kanjar Ro's Gamma Gong, a way to physically paralyze Starro. The warhead is the Dominator gene bomb which will severe Starro's link to his slaves thus robbing him of his strength. And the energy charge will be Despero's mental might.
So Dox' intelligence goes beyond arrogance and control. It also includes straight science and thinking out of the box. He has built the perfect weapon to beat an unstoppable foe.
In the mean time, Starro has decided that the next place for his Starro Wave to invade is Earth. Brainiac 3 will control the fleets. Astrild Stormdaughter will be the vanguard with the first troops. And Starro will then take over Earth, openly challenging the heroes of Earth.
I love the above panel where Starro imagines what his invasion will be like. Yes there he is towering over Superman. But the other hero he thinks about is Plastic Man? I chuckled a bit. Would Plastic Man be anywhere near there? Where the heck is Wonder Woman and the Green Lanterns?
While the plan is being finished, Lyrl decides the time is right to begin his own back stage machinations. He pulls Smite aside and tells the General that he knows that Smite wants to ultimately kill Starro and take over.
Lyrl tells Smite that he has his own plan in motion to have Starro killed. When that happens, Smite can take over the fleet and Lyrl wil move on to other concerns.
Why tell Smite this? If he isn't a crucial part of the plan, why clue him in at all? Does he hope that Smite will try to assure Starro's death and end up getting killed himself? Or maybe Lyrl just thinks his plan is so foolproof that he can tell anyone he wants without worries.
Here is another great Vril Dox moment.
He tells the team that they will prepare to head to Earth to face of against Starro. When Despero asks if Dox cares about Earth, he flatly says that he doesn't. He just wants the proper credit if he saves Earth.
Billions dying ... no worries. He just wants what's due to him. Awesome.
Before the ship can take off though, Vril is teleported to Lyrl's ship. His son has something to tell him.
Lyrl has set up Starro so that instead of teleporting to Earth he will teleport to the R.E.B.E.L.S. ship instead. Since Lyrl has already anticipated that Vril will have created an anti-Starro weapon, why not force the issue bringing his father and the conqueror together sooner rather than later.
Vril barely hears what his son has to say, rushing to fight him.
I loved reading Lyrl talk to his father. It must be humiliating for Vril to hear his son talk to him the way he talks to others. Lyrl calls Vril's attack primitive and then he easily parries it with Lythylian submission moves.
Lyrl doesn't want to serve a master bent on self-destruction. Why would he? So he has betrayed his master.
And then after explaining how he will bring Starro to the R.E.B.E.L.S., he breaks his father's arm so he can't deploy the weapon. Lyrl wants Vril alive after all this. I doubt it is to attend a father/son picnic. My guess is Lyrl hopes to either lord over Vril or worse, antagonize his father. There is no love lost between the two.
I'll be honest ... Lyrl frightens me. He might have all the arrogance and brains of Vril, but there is whiff of malevolence in him. We shouldn't be surprised given his actions the last time he had his 12th level intellect.
The plan works as it should.
Starro teleports to the R.E.B.E.L.S. ship. Adam Strange lines him up with the weapon. Despero prepares to attack. Starro welcomes the fight! The prefect cliffhanger!
I think the timing is perfect for the ending of this storyline. We had a half a year to set up the team and the threat and a half a year to see the threat in action. Now we will get resolution.
Any guesses on how it will end? I am hoping to see Starro drained of his power and turned back into the small boy he once was. And as he cries for the horrible things he has done, I bet Vril shoots him in the head without hesitation. I know ... it reads awful, but I bet it happens.
I also bet that somehow Despero does not leave the battle in good shape. Dox would never team up with a scorpion like him for the long term.
As for Lyrl, I can see it going 2 ways. One, he escapes and becomes a background villain in the title for a while. Or, more deliciously, when Starro the Conqueror gets defeated, the large starfish on Lyrl reverts to a more classic Starro leaving Lyrl a brain-dead automaton. Either way would be fine with me.
I really enjoy R.E.B.E.L.S. and this issue showcased the Dox family tree. I read this book mostly for Brainiac 2 so I was glad to see so much of him here. Claude St. Aubin did his usual capable penciling here.
Overall grade: A
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